“Kinds of Kindness” opens in NYC Friday, June 21

    Following only a few months from the release of “Poor Things” (though the production wrapped in the winter of 2022 in New Orleans), Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Kinds of Kindness” clocks in at a bathroom break-defying 164 minutes. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that anyone who sees it in theaters will miss at least one scene? Even at the press screening I attended I don’t know what happened just before the policeman shoots a man in the hand! I wouldn’t blame anyone to wait to see it streaming in order to catch it all and watch with captions. Not everyone will get to see it (as I did) in a DOLBY Atmos screening room with perfect sound and picture and very respectful critics in attendance. Culture vultures, though, will want to dive right in as this is a stunning, dark as Kubrick masterpiece. Working this time with his early screenwriting collaborator Efthimis Filippou, it represents a return to the morbid fascinations and style of his first films.

    “Some people want to be abused,” sings Annie Lennox (“Sweet Dreams”) in the song that opens the film. If there is a theme uniting the film it is that plus dream analysis. (The dreams are all represented in black and white.) The work is divided into three stories, with the same cast members (Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe and Joe Alwyn) playing different parts in each.

    “Margaret Qualley, Jesse Plemons and Willem Dafoe”

    In the first section, “The Death of R.M.F.” a man (Yorgos Stefanakos) is introduced with those initials embroidered on his shirt. (We never find out what the initials stand for.) This man will pop up in all three episodes, with varying importance. Plemons (who won Best Actor at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for his role) plays an executive, seemingly happily married, whose every move is dictated by his boss (Willem Dafoe). When he ultimately refuses to kill Mr. R.M.F. in a staged car accident, he is dismissed, only to find that everything he has gained disappear. (Even the sports memorabilia he was rewarded–a tennis racket smashed by John McEnroe!–is reclaimed.) It’s easy to see this section as an allegory about acting and filmmaking itself, with players coached through increasingly challenging roles and scenes.

    Next up is “R.M.F. Is Flying,” in which Plemons plays a police officer whose wife (Stone) disappears during a scientific voyage who is rescued by a helicopter flown by “R.M.F.” She may have practiced cannibalism to stay alive while deserted on an island and Plemons has doubts about whether she is actually his real wife. (She eats chocolate which she previously hated, her feet don’t fit her old shoes.) Earlier, in one of the funniest and most ribald scenes, the police officer asks his cop buddy (Mamoudou Athie) and his wife (Margaret Qualley) to watch an old home video and they cautiously oblige. I’ll let you find out what is in the video! And there is a police psychologist who seems to suffer from the same vocal disease that R.F.K., Jr. has. (R.F.K. equals R.M.F.? R.M.F. equals “real mother fucker?” R.M.F. equals “risk management framework?”)

    “Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn”

    Lastly, in “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich,” Plemons and Stone play two members of a cult led by Dafoe, who must find a sole surviving twin whose body is “uncontaminated” and thus able to bring dead people to life. “Euphoria” star Hunter Schafer appears only in this segment as a failing candidate for the job. In the funniest part by far (in a film that doesn’t have a lot of laugh-out-loud moments) Stone’s character peels out (for no reason) in a purple Dodge Challenger every time she drives somewhere. Disqualified from the cult after her ex-husband date rapes her, she has to find the perfect twin to be re-admitted. Qualley’s performance as the ideal pair of twins is both deliciously funny and morbid. (Their births are cited as being some years apart, indicating a divine conception of one them.) Note: stay for the credits to see “R.M.F.” eat the sandwich.

    Cinematographer Robbie Ryan employs wide angle lenses in much the same way as Stanley Kubrick did and the startling piano score by Jerskin Fendrix reminded me of the musical frissons of “Eyes Wide Shut” and “The Shining.” So, what are the “kinds” of “kindness?” Are they in the lyrics to “Sweet Dreams?” In the lyrics to the song Stone dances to celebrating her triump at the end of part three: “Brand New Bitch” by COBRAH? The song that Margaret Qualley’s character plays on a Casio keyboard in part one? (I’ve forgotten what song it is!) I wouldn’t think too much about it. “Kinds of Kindness” opens Friday, June 21 in New York and other selected cities. Nationwide beginning June 28.

    Latest articles

    More Reviews