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“Saltburn” burned holes in my eyes

Academy Award-winning director and writer, Emerald Fennell, is back with “Saltburn.” A film that follows a calculating psychopath attending Oxford in 2006, finding his way into the good graces of a wealthy and irresistible classmate.

Going into this film I didn’t watch any of the trailers or read anything about it before going to see it. All I knew was that it was being written and directed by Emerald Fennell and it stars Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi. And I knew that I wanted to see it after having watched “Promising Young Woman,” that won Fennell an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. But I had no idea what I was in for with this film and I am so glad that was the case.

There were multiple scenes throughout this movie that had me cringing and curling up into a ball in my seat wanting to close my eyes. Fennell holds nothing back when showing the dark side of obsession and what exuberant wealth and elitism does to a person. Because you really do just hate all of the people in this movie, even the lead, by the time the credits roll.

The colors, set designs, dialogue, and costumes are absolutely superb and expertly crafted. Visuals of old English money contrasted with the tacky party life of the early 2000s are incredibly pleasing to the eyes. The Saltburn estate finds a life of its own with its sprawling green grounds and rich interiors decorated with art pieces from throughout history. And the costumes in this film are also incredibly well done, with each character’s wardrobe being clear expressions of their personalities.

All of the films’ characters are exceptionally written and well crafted, and you end up hating and loving them all at once. The star of the film, Barry Keoghan delivers an amazing performance as Oliver Quick, a character that is equally endearing as he is terrifying. Because just about anyone can relate to wanting to be noticed and wanted by someone, but the lengths he goes to are just shocking. His monologue narration throughout the film also leaves the audience questioning what happens next until it all falls into place.

Keoghan’s co-star, Jacob Elordi, also delivers a compelling and contagious performance as Felix Catton. Their performances bring the audience into the shoes of Oliver, and have you admiring Felix’s easy-going and kind-hearted nature, making it obvious why everyone loves him. The two lead this story marvelously and bounce off each other’s performances seamlessly.

Other standout performances come from Rosamund Pike, playing Felix’s mom Elsbeth Catton, a character that is so ignorant in her privilege that you just hate her guts. Alison Oliver plays Venetia, Felix’s younger sister, who as a character you can’t help but feel bad for at times because she really is just a makeup of the circumstances her family has created.

And the film’s only obvious antagonist in the first two acts, Farley played by Archie Madekwe, who you are hoping to fail because of how posh and snobby he is towards Oliver. But at the same time, you kind of grow to love his witty insults and jokes made at other people’s expense.

“Saltburn” is a movie that makes you think about class and wealth in ways that not a lot of movies today do. The Catton family is made up of people who haven’t really done anything wrong outside of being inconsiderate of other people and their feelings. But you hate them because they have grown to be so ignorant and snobby in their ivory towers.

The film’s “protagonist” Oliver Quick is also a character that can’t help but be affected by the inherent problems the vast wealth of the Catton family brings. And while I won’t spoil why it happens, but by the end, everyone in this film is just so despicable in their own ways. But, they are all so damn entertaining to watch. And that final scene before it cuts to credits is just phenomenal to witness.

The only gripe I had with this movie is how, at times, it felt like I was watching scenes from Anthony Minghella’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” as a lot of the tropes in that movie can be seen here. Which is okay, because they are tropes that work and are in more than just these films. Just some of the similarities were a little too close for me to not be distracted and say, “Hey that was just like that one scene in ‘Talented Mr. Ripley.'”

I think that anyone who can find interest in looking at what class and wealth can do to a person and to a family has to see this. But be warned that there are moments in this film that make you want to shut your eyes to avoid having the scene burned into your brain. As long as you can get past that, I think this is a movie that is a must-watch in the current climate of Hollywood and film.

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