A Bigger Splash is a gorgeous sun-drenched Italian island getaway, until it isn't. The film shapeshifts into a hypersexualized potboiler, until it isn't. What it is, ultimately, is a bloody good film. By bloody, I mean unmistakably entertaining--and unquestionably bloody.
Ralph Fiennes makes the biggest splash in this thriller with what is, by far, the best male performance of the year to date. Fiennes' dramatic turns—Schindler's List, The English Patient, The Constant Gardener—defined so much of his early career, but it's his comedic prowess that impresses me most, particularly in 2014's The Grand Budapest Hotel and Hail, Caesar!, perhaps the most underappreciated film of 2016.
In A Bigger Splash, Fiennes plays Harry, a human tornado who crashes the island love nest of his former lover and business partner Marianne (Tilda Swinton in all her angular perfection) and Marianne's new paramour, the introspective Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts, so impressive in last year's The Danish Girl). Harry doesn't just bring his own emotional baggage, he also has in tow Penelope (Dakota Johnson), his daughter from another of his previous relationships. If you're keeping score, that's four ridiculously attractive adults with the sultry Italian island of Pantelleria as a backdrop, so there's plenty of nudity, a lot of sex and buckets of sweat. A word to the wise: if you see A Bigger Splash at The Flicks, an adult beverage is practically required to enhance your viewing experience.
Fiennes' Harry is a hoot, like in this exchange with Paul when Harry drops his trousers to relieve himself
"Harry, you're pissing on a grave," says Paul.
"Well, Europe's a grave," Harry responds deadpan.
A Bigger Splash slips between acerbic adult comedy and psychosexual drama for two-thirds of its runtime. All the while, each of the main characters keeps us guessing as to what their motivations may be. Then, something bad happens. Something very, very bad. For the remainder of the film, you may be inclined to guess how the mystery might be resolved. Please don't try. You'll be wrong.
Oscar-winning Swinton is perfectly cast as Marianne, a glam rock goddess who performs before sold-out stadiums and arenas (think Chrissie Hynde). Ironically, she's practically silent through much of the movie, having just undergone severe throat surgery. She has been forbidden to talk, let along sing, but the amazing Swinton says more with her expressions than the rest of the cast combined.
Schoenaerts and Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) also smolder under the sun; and you just know that they'll graduate with degrees in carnal knowledge—magna cum laude—before things begin falling apart.
Above all, see The Bigger Splash for Fiennes and his Tasmanian Devil of a performance as Harry. One moment he's discomforting, the next he's cuddly and the next, he's... I don't want to give it away. Just go see the movie, have a drink and be merry. And make sure to take a few friends with you. You'll want to talk about his one for a while.