Director Alex Garland’s new feature, Men, is about Toxic masculinity. Until it isn’t. Or maybe it still is? Tim Ovenden attempts to unpack the new A24 horror…
Don’t watch this movie is my instinctual advice. It’s weird and perverted, like really weird and really perverted, and kind of beautiful. While I cannot feasibly recommend Men to anyone, I think it adds up to something. It has a lot of problems, certainly many more than Garland’s previous film, Annihilation, which similarly devolves into insane, intriguing, cerebral concepts (although Men is more metaphorical, thus harder to engage with). The movie is incredibly self-masturbatory, so I understand any hatred directed at it. However, bafflingly, I think I like Men, although considering some of the film’s graphic content, actively proclaiming this will likely land me on a watchlist somewhere.
Jessie Buckley stars, again making a career out of stimulating indie projects. This time she’s a widow escaping to the West Country (in an opening scene straight out of a car advertisement), for a two-week, me-time vacation. Horror tropes ensue. The main conceit of the film, which I won’t spoil, encapsulates the theme of Toxic masculinity well, despite being quite silly. In fact, much of Men could have been played for laughs, and you easily re-write it as a dark comedy.
I am reminded of Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!
Nevertheless, I for one am glad Men is played straight; the movie dishes up enough unintentionally funny moments that I was laughing along anyway. I am reminded of Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!– both use a not-so-subtle core allegory, and both go incomprehensibly nuts in the last half hour.
Digital de-aging/deepfakes do not look good, and take me out of a movie every time
The special efforts are creative and convincing, with one glaring exception that needs to be called out. Digital de-aging /deepfakes do not look good, and take me out of a movie every time. Until the technology is there, they should be avoided entirely. Case in point, The Mandalorian. Sebastian Stan was there on a plate to play a young Mark Hamill, (they’re practically identical), but instead we get a scene-ruining, uncanny-valley Luke Skywalker. Please stop.
Anyway, Garland seems to have found his lane making cerebral conceptual projects, falling further down the rabbit hole with each consecutive release. With Men, it’s clear he came up with two or three interesting visual concepts first, then had to build a full-length film around them. It’s certainly Garland’s worst movie in the director’s chair, but, if anything, Men gets me more excited for whatever he decides to make next.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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