*Note: this review was originally published for subscribers on Patreon in May
*minor spoilers below*
Well, it was bound to happen sometime. After seeing over ten movies in theaters (so far) this year, I’ve finally seen a movie that completely disappointed me and that is Alex Garland’s Men.
What really hurts about this is I was genuinely excited, if slightly nervous, about seeing this movie. I’ve been a fan of Garland’s directorial work since his debut with Ex Machina. I also saw Annihilation in theaters and I liked that film quite a bit (though Ex Machina remains his best work). Based on that history, it seemed reasonable to assume that I would enjoy Men to some degree as well.
Well….that didn’t happen.
The biggest issue is, I sat through the entire movie and I still can’t tell you what Men is supposed to be about. This didn’t bother me for most of the runtime, because I figured a last act twist was coming that would explain everything. Well, there were some last act twists all right, but they did absolutely nothing to explain what the BLEEP was going on in that movie. I don’t mind when movies don’t completely spell everything out for you (Garland’s first film Ex Machina is a prime example) but Men doesn’t come close to explaining what is happening or why.
An equally grievous fault is that Men is trying way too hard to be clever about its subject matter (whatever that is). It’s almost like Garland thought that by filling the movie with lewd, disgusting men who are *minor spoiler alert* ultimately defeated by a woman, that he would find a receptive audience. But, if anything, the male characters in this film were a complete turnoff for me. Perhaps if Garland had done a better job explaining what was going on in the story, it might have been more palatable. But as it is, we were subjected to a litany of offensive comments that at times had the audience commenting out loud about how offensive they were (especially when the priest character tried to justify the spousal abuse that the main character suffered). That moment disgusted me and in hindsight I probably should’ve walked out at that point.
For a time, it almost seemed like the film had an interesting premise going. It seemed to me that our heroine was encountering the manifestation of an ancient pagan god (depicted on an ancient basin used as a baptismal font in the village church) who was interested in acquiring a mate because, well, that’s what fertility gods do. But then, as I alluded to earlier, there was a last act twist that not only blew that theory to ribbons, it also completely confused me because it seemed to come completely out of left field.
I will say this much for the film: Rory Kinnear puts on the performance of a lifetime in this movie. I lost count of all the characters he played, but there’s such a wide variety it’s stunning to think that he pulled them all off himself. I also enjoyed Jesse Buckley’s performance as Harper, especially in the latter half of the film when the action starts ramping up.
The only other detail of this film that I thoroughly enjoyed was the music. As with Garland’s previous films, the music was composed by Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow and it is superbly done. Indeed, had the music been not so good I don’t think I could’ve made it through the film.
I can’t in good conscience recommend going to see Men. It was overall a complete disappointment for me and it is far from Alex Garland’s best work.
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