Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘Kinds of Kindness’ Distinctly Unsettling

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Rating: 3.0/5.0

CHICAGO – Distinctive visions are in such short supply in Hollywood these days I suppose we should be grateful when one makes it onto our movie screens. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is nothing if not distinctive, but his films are by no means easy to watch. His latest film “Kinds Of Kindness” consists of three short stories of power and cruelty. Each tale centers on a person in desperate need of direction falling to prey to insidious manipulation that hollows them out leaving them an empty husk without a sense of self.

Lanthimos reunites with his muse Emma Stone, along with Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau and Mamoudou Athie, as they act as a sort of repertory company taking different roles in three different stories. There are funny moments yes, but I think it’s a big stretch to call this a comedy in any way. It’s main objective seems to be as off-putting and unsettling as it can be.

Kinds of Kindness
Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

The film’s first story is arguably its best, with Jesse Plemons as a man who has allowed his boss at work (Willem Dafoe) to control every single element of his life. Dafoe tells him how to act, what to wear, what to drink, what to eat, and even when to make love to his wife and whether or not to have children. Dafoe has complete and total control.

But when he, for reasons that are unclear, dictates that Plemons ram his Ford Bronco into an oncoming car at a speed great enough to kill the other driver, Plemons attempts to put his foot down and Dafoe cuts him off completely. Plemons gets inside this character – who finds jello where his backbone is supposed to be – as he slowly realizes just how little is actually under his control.

In the second story, Plemons is a small town cop in a coastal town who is knocked off his bearings when his wife (Emma Stone) goes missing at sea. When she’s supposedly rescued and brought back home, Plemons begins to suspect the woman who looks and sounds like his wife is not who she claims to be.

In the third story, Stone takes the lead as a woman looking for a messiah and following a prophesy foretold to her by an uber rich apparent cult leader (Willem Dafoe). Lanthimos’ worlds are populated by empty cold spaces, disinterested characters, and a deeply uncomfortable music score full of pianos and something that sounds like a greek chorus from hell.

Emma Stone in ‘Kinds of Kindness’
Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

There are no tidy messages here, no clever wrap ups, just exercises in ultimately pointless cruelty where those in power abuse and control those beneath them. If that’s the message that Yorgos Lanthimos is trying to communicate, then mission accomplished, I guess. It’s definitely unlike any other movie you’ll see this summer … I won’t soon forget this film, but I can’t say I’m glad I saw it.

”Kinds of Kindness” is in theaters on June 28th. Featuring Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau and Mamoudou Athie. Written by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com contributor Spike Walters


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