Movie Review: Midsommar

4 stars out of 5

This might sound a little weird, but Midsommar made me miss Woody Allen. I was the only one in an Asbury Park theater watching this thoroughly f’ed up story unfold against a gorgeous sunny Swedish backdrop. And I flashed back to Woody’s summer releases. Every year there seemed to be one, light comedy and deep thoughts set in some super pleasing locale, the theater nicely air conditioned and it was like taking a sweet little vacation. Midsommar is like that except, as stated, 100% f’ed up.

So you’ve got four U.S. anthropology student buddies: a poor man’s Chris Pratt, an annoying goofball, the voice-of-reason black dude, and a young Swedish Mark Linn-Baker who likes to draw and is all smiley. They’re going to visit Mark’s old Swedish commune which is staging a once-a-century traditional festival. Pratt’s girlfriend is having a pretty rough go of things, so she tags along. And things go downhill from there.

It’s a horror flick, but at a significantly slower pace than most, which I guess makes this an “art film.” Within two minutes I was thinking, “See? It’s not too hard to make a movie look really good, even with a lower budget. Are you listening to me, Spider-Man: Far From Home?” You’re not continually on the edge of your seat as with A Quiet Place, but the weirdness builds and builds and builds amongst all these smiling Swedes and, did I mention it’s pretty f’ed up?

Florence Pugh is excellent as the lead, Dani, totally broken, totally vulnerable, but still with an inner strength. Between this and The Little Drummer Girl miniseries, she is absolutely one to watch. The other actors show up and are either suitably nervous-looking or else blank stared, depending which side they’re on, but nobody stands out. That’s OK, this is a genre exercise (we even get the classic “if you do drugs or have sex, you’re gonna get it!” horror trope), and a pretty good, fun, unique one at that. So rally ’round the maypole and enjoy.

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