Thursday, January 11, 2024

Review: "SALTBURN" is not Salty, nor Does it Burn

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 1 of 2024 (No. 1945) by Leroy Douresseaux

Saltburn (2023)
Running time: 131 minutes (2 hours, 11 minutes)
MPA – R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, some disturbing violent content, and drug use.
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Emerald Fennell
PRODUCERS:  Emerald Fennell, Josey McNamara, and Margot Robbie
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Linus Sandgren (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Victoria Boydell
COMPOSER:  Anthony Willis


Starring:  Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Archie Madekwe, Alison Oliver, Sadie Soverall, Paul Rhys, and Carey Mulligan


-- The new film from the writer-director of Emerald Fennell has an intriguing premise and is actually intriguing for about its first hour.

-- Their are few good performances, particularly by Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, and Archie Madekwe. Sadly, the movie focuses on its least interesting character, Oliver Quick, played by one of the hottest dull actors around, Barry Keoghan.

-- Saltburn is mainly for adventurous movie fans. Viewers looking to be entertained may want to look for a movie that is less stiff.


Saltburn is a 2023 psychological drama and black comedy from writer-director Emerald Fennell.  The film follows a new student at Oxford University who is drawn into the world of a charming and aristocratic classmate, which leads to a tragic summer at the classmate's family's sprawling estate.

Saltburn  introduces Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), a scholarship student at Oxford University.  Oliver struggles to fit in due to his inexperience with upper-class manners and deportment.  However, one of Oliver's fellow students does capture his imagination, Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), an affluent and popular student.  It turns out that Felix is empathetic to Oliver and his stories of his parents' substance abuse and mental health issues.

After Oliver becomes distraught when he learns of his father's sudden death, Felix comforts him.  Later, Felix invites Oliver to spend the summer at his family's sprawling estate, Saltburn.  Oliver meets Felix's eccentric parents, his father, Sir James Catton (Richard E. Grant), and his mother, Lady Elspeth Catton (Rosamund Pike).  He also meets Felix's kooky and lewd sister, Venetia (Alison Oliver).  Also staying at the state is fellow Oxford student and Felix's first cousin, Farleigh Start (Archie Madekwe), who thinks very little of Oliver.  As the summer wears on, however, these unlikable people become too self-absorbed to recognize the danger so very near to them.

I was a huge fan of Saltburn writer-director Emerald Fennell's 2020, Promising Young Woman, for which Fennell won a “Best Original Screenplay” Oscar.  Promising Young Woman was a shocking, funny, vindictive, and righteous film, and which is much more than I can say about Saltburn, which looks like a sumptuous period drama.  On the other hand, for all its good looks, Saltburn is sterile as a black comedy.

I can deal with a film that focuses on unlikable people, which Saltburn does.  Still, I found Saltburn's lead actor, Barry Keoghan, and his character, Oliver Quick, dull and unimaginative.  I don't get Keoghan's critical acclaim.  He was pitiful and sad in The Banshees of Inisherin (2020), which earned him a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar nomination.  However, sad, silent waif characters bore me, and Keoghan's Oliver Quick is duller than his Dominic Kearney was in Banshees.  Here, Keoghan's personality-free performance in this film does not convince me that Oliver is what the film's final act suggests he is.  Honestly, what Fennell offers here is nothing more than a riff on novelist Patricia Highsmith's literary character, "Tom Ripley," if Ripley were played as a character that was stuffed and mounted.  Also, I must admit to often mistaking Keoghan for another milky white boy actor, Ezra Miller (The Flash), who did the pale, waif thing really well until his... secrets came out.

I like Jacob Elordi as Felix Catton, a funny and charming character, and Elordi's boyish, white boy looks should give him at least a few years in Hollywood as a “hot thing.”  The film's best performance is given by Archie Madekwe, the Black British actor who creates Saltburn's most intriguing character.  As the “mixed-race” Farleigh Start, Madekwe is mysterious and sexy, and honestly, I wish Saltburn was about Farleigh's relationship with the Cattons and his life at Saltburn.  I should also admit that I'm always crazy about Rosamund Pike, so I was in love with Lady Elspeth.

Ultimately, I can only recommend Saltburn to adventurous movie fans who are always on the lookout for films from interesting filmmakers, which Emerald Fennell certainly is.  I simply wish that Saltburn burned a little more.

5 of 10
★★½ out of 4 stars

You can stream the SALTBURN film here on AMAZON Prime Video.

The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



Amazon wants me to inform you that the affiliate link below is a PAID AD, but I technically only get paid (eventually) if you click on the affiliate link below AND buy something(s).

No comments:

Post a Comment