** stars (out of four)
Director Luca Guadagnino’s new film A Bigger Splash boasts strong lead performances by Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes, but strands them in a story that has trouble deciding where it wants to go.
Swinton plays a rock star on the mend (i.e. resting her vocal chords) in an Italian village with her lover (Matthias Schoenaerts). Fiennes, playing their mutual friend and Swinton’s former boyfriend, unexpectedly shows up with his college-aged daughter (Dakota Johnson). There’s a mixture of friendliness, awkwardness, and romantic tension between the four.
For about 90 minutes, the film meanders along as Fiennes wants to be something more than Swinton’s friend, Schoenaerts struggles with jealousy, and Swinton wonders if Fiennes/Johnson are a little more than just father/daughter. The problem is the dynamic is established, then treads water for 30-45 minutes before a late plot twist takes the film in an entirely different direction.
The script probably should have either kept things short and focused on the four characters bouncing off each other in a beautiful location (you’ll probably want to take a vacation to Italy after seeing this). If the darker turn needed to be introduced, then it should have happened closer to the halfway point.
Fans of Swinton and Fiennes will certainly appreciate their work here, but the story leaves its actors hanging. A Bigger Splash opens in New Orleans on May 20, 2016.