It’s a little hard to formulate my thoughts on Alex Garland’s new movie Men. I know I found it very annoying and difficult to get through but explaining why is challenging. I’ll do my best. I should start by saying I liked Garland’s Ex-Machina but I did not like his scifi film Annihilation in 2018. The former was an engaging AI scifi while the latter was a pretentious slog. Now we have Men, which purports to give us a ‘folk horror’ movie, but instead serves up a pretentious, heavy-handed, non-scary piece of arthouse junk. No thank you!
I will start out by saying I love Jessie Buckley so much. She won my heart in Wild Rose and I’ve loved her in everything I’ve seen her in since. The failure of Men is not her fault. In fact, she does a great job in a challenging performance. The film also looks nice with some great cinematography and small-scale visual effects.
The problem is the story and the fact it thinks it has something interesting to say but it doesn’t. At least something like Promising Young Woman has an unreliable narrator that hates men for a reason and her toxicity along with the men played out in interesting ways.
In Men Garland doesn’t give us any such nuance or engaging story. Buckley’s character Harper is grieving over the loss of her husband (Paapa Essiedu) when she meets Rory Kinnear’s Geoffrey when renting his vacation home. We don’t really get to know her well and only have minimal backstory or insights into her character. She’s a classic case of someone who doesn’t act but is acted upon within the narrative.
Kinnear plays several characters and each one of them embodies different shades of toxic masculinity. There’s a petulant boy, a creepy vicar, and even Adam and the tree of knowledge of good and evil (yes they go way back…). I guess this treatise on gender could be interesting but it doesn’t have anything to say beyond the fact that toxic men exist. We already know that! Again at least PYW had a message about how we treat victims. This is nothing. It’s not scary and the screenplay just gets more annoying as it goes along.
If he’s going to comment on half the human race I’d think Garland could come up with something better than they are all terrible and selfish creatures? Then the ending is so dumb I almost left the theater. I guess I can’t say it because it would be spoilers, but I hated it and they repeat it 3 or 4 times!
There will be people who will claim this is brilliant but I don’t see anything great about what it was trying to say or do. Why not have one sympathetic man so Harper is confused and doesn’t know who to trust? This would be scary and provide a more layered view of how toxic masculinity and abuse happens. Instead we get this pretentious “horror” film that fails in nearly every respect.
2 out of 10
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