Thursday, 11 May 2017

Bottom of the World (2017) - review

Scrounging around the depths of Netflix, you hope at least to find something that'll entertain you for a little while, and, if you're lucky challenge your mind. Bottom of the World at least looked like it could be an intriguing desert mystery, but any attraction was soon to dissipate.

Directed by Richard Sears, we see a young couple in love travelling along Route 66, played by Jena Malone (The Neon Demon) and Douglas Smith. Stopping at the kitschy El Rancho hotel in New Mexico, they are haunted by a creepy preacher on the TV who seems to be speaking directly to them (Ted Levine), but not before Malone's Scarlett admits to abusing her severely disabled cousin when she was a child. But lol, its a joke! Also, they're being watched by a masked man with a Chelsea smile maliciously eating a red apple (the universal fruit of bad guys). But then we skip to an alternative timeline, where Smith's Alex is married to an unimaginative brunette and Scarlett is his next door neighbour, but he still remembers Scarlett from their time in the desert. Did he just make all that up?

"Lynch-esque" has been brought up a lot to describe this film, but that's really overselling it. Yes, it tries to have a twisty plot, tries to raise more questions than answers, and even tries to be disturbingly perverse, but in the end you are just left with just a plainly boring film. The New Mexico segment is at least visually interesting, and the television preacher with the Mona Lisa eyes is curious, but this first act is far too short. The rest of the film is as grey and dull as the alternate timelines cinematography. Jena Malone is interesting, even if she is the stereotype of a crazy girl, but the film instead decides to have Douglas Smith as the lead, and he seems woefully out of his depth. He is frankly boring to watch, but to be honest, the script doesn't give him much to go on. I understand that there is meant to be a creepy, otherworldly vibe to these characters, but they seem like robots. It is worrying that Alex has barely a response to Scarlett's worrying cousin story. You'd at least seem a little freaked out that your girlfriend could pluck such a story out of the air (apparently).

Maybe what's most exasperating is the smugness of Bottom of the World. This is a film that thinks its clever, but its not clever enough to be interesting. By the end, I had no incentive to care about its conclusion, and its ambiguous ending felt like a cop out. A strong start soon derailed into a sloppy second and third act, and its brief running time couldn't even run parallel to its sedate pace.



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