The Invitation, directed by Karyn Kusama, is a film with a slight, but ever-present feeling of unease; one that builds as the film progresses. With characters of varying quality, and a mystery that genuinely keeps you guessing up to the end, The Invitation is certainly a film that has you one edge. Let’s uncover the mystery of this film, and see where it works and where it doesn’t.
The story in ‘The Invitation’ sees Will – played by Logan Marshall-Green – return to his former home for a dinner party/reunion with not only old friends, but also his ex-wife, Eden – played by Tammy Blanchard – and her new husband, David – played by Michiel Huisman. Will is still very much suffering from the loss of his child (an accident that occurred 2 years prior to the plot of this film), and struggles with the whole event, while his ex-wife seems strangely content with it. But behind all of the clinking glasses (of expensive wine) and the reminiscing of old times; a sinister feeling lurks under the night; as if their reason for being there has a more ominous outcome.
So the thing that will certainly cause you to sit-up and pay attention in the film, is the constant feeling of something dark lurking, just out of sight. From the first scene to the last, you will always have that sense that something bad is just around the corner and the way in which the film achieves this feeling is masterful. Almost everything is presented up-front; you, along with the main character, are keeping your eyes open, able to observe and deconstruct just what exactly might be going on. Think of it like a fun little meta-game within the watching of the film. What’s also enjoyable about this is how the film doesn’t make it easy to deduce. Just as you think you’ve got it figured out, the film throws a curveball, leaving you to completely upend your theories and come at it from a different angle.
I think this is what makes the film work as well as it does; if the mystery failed, if you knew exactly how it was going to play-out, well then the film would leave you unengaged. Thankfully engaging was something I was continually doing with this film. It lay out clues and interesting little misdirects, and I happily played along with its uneasy game.
But at the heart of it all are people, and The Invitation has quite a few of them. However, that large cast of characters – all who I might add, are in the same house, chit-chatting away with one another – ends up meaning that you have a mixed bag of characters that range from compelling, too easily forgettable (ignored). Now, I wouldn’t say that the weaker characters pull the film down; they are a little irritating or cliché at times – in particular a gay couple who are really poorly written and are deserving of some more worthy development – but I was still able to get a lot from the characters that had my attention.
Front and centre in it all is Will (Logan Marshall-Green). This actor (which the only other film I’ve seen him in is ‘Prometheus’) absolutely succeeds at his performance of Will. There is an understandable distance to his presence, and there is also great pain exuded by him. He is a character that you can immediately sympathise with, but he is also someone who brilliantly drives the film forward; from both an actor standpoint and a character standpoint.
The other actor, who stands out, is someone who, in my opinion, has never given a bad performance: John Carroll Lynch – who plays Pruitt in the film – has this presence in every scene that is dominating. Not only does he have the physical presence (the man seems to tower over everyone) but he also brings an unexpected level of emotion; emotion that pulls you in and also unsettles you. While the mixed-bag of great to bad characters is a let-down, it thankfully isn’t a problem because of some absolutely outstanding performances.
An aspect to the film that you may not first notice, but is forever present and forever aiding all the other elements in the film: is the editing. The way in which moments are cut together, the way in which the unnerving music creeps into the background, how Will’s damaged psyche manifests itself; The Invitation is a film that fully utilises the tools at its disposal, to deliver something that has you hooked. It’s subtle and it takes its time, but the film perfectly paces itself towards its end goal.
I knew nothing about ‘The Invitation’ going in – which I recommend you do; avoid the trailers and go in as blind as possible – and so I was more than happy when the credits were rolling and I had that feeling of having watched something that left a mark on me. I think if it wasn’t for the final shot of the film – which that’s all I’ll say on that, so as to avoid spoilers – I think I would be applauding this film for what it achieved. Instead it gets a light golf-clap.
I’m more than happy to recommend ‘The Invitation’. I didn’t know what I was walking into, but after it was all said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed what I had watched. So give it a go.
I’d love to know what your thoughts are on ‘The Invitation’, or this review. Feel free to leave them in the comments down below. If your interested in keeping up-to-date on the rest of my ramblings, perhaps either follow this blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read this and I hope you have a great week.