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My Review Of The Movie Saltburn

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCD chapter.

Orson Welles once said “Cinema has no boundary; it is a ribbon of dream.” I am here to report that I have found the boundary…because Saltburn is located about fifty miles past it. There is no art more easily appreciated by me than a good movie, no thing that touches me as effortlessly as the big screen. With that being said, I want to start out by saying I do not hate this movie. I am affronted by it. Saltburn took its cinematic qualities, its undyingly talented cast, its rare ‘ribbon of dream’ and turned it into what can only be described as a thread of neverending nightmare. There is nothing more disappointing than witnessing a piece of art with all the potential in the world fall flat on its face. Its cast, particularly Rosamund Pike, Jacob Elordi, and even Barry Keoghan (whom I cannot bestow too much credit to because his character was so outrageous as to turn me away from the performance all together), exhibited enough raw talent  to almost guarantee me an entertaining watch…but that was ultimately diminished by the second half. 

This movie is set up beautifully with cinematography comparable to some of the greatest film classics of the last decade, matching the eerie stillness of Get Out and adding elements of twisted imagination to nearly every scene. Set in an old money family estate and filmed at Drayton House in Northamptonshire, it is impossible to direct the camera lens toward anything unattractive. The chilling fantastical elements of every shot show real talent and promise, setting a tone of lurking sinister amidst the beauty and wealth. 

HOWEVER, my biggest problem with this movie lies in character motives. Without giving too much of the plot away, I will just say that none of the characters exhibit any real depth or objectives beyond the surface level. A good film places characters in scenes and lets their actions speak to who they are, what they want, and why they want it. Saltburn does none of this. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to deprive the audience of any solid conception of who any of these characters are, most namely the lead role of Oliver Quick. I am surely not above a psychotropic movie, in fact, it is among my favorite genres…but this movie was not what it was attempting to be. To be truly mind-bending, to give meaning to the discomfort Emerald Fennell seems to have carefully curated…. there must be reasoning and there must be stakes. These characters seemed to act in a way that made them fake. None of Oliver Quick’s decisions were reasonable and, while I appreciated the fantastical elements of cinematography, the biggest stretch of imagination this film took was in thinking anyone would grasp/sympathize/hate/or care remotely about Oliver’s actions beyond the first hour. When a character is motivated by love…that is something the audience will understand. When a character is motivated by hate…that is something the audience will understand. When the character is motivated by necessity… that is something the audience will understand. I kept waiting and waiting and waiting to understand Oliver all in vain because his motivations are never given an explanation. His actions seem to be fueled by a mixture of yearning/love/resentment/and sexual deviance with no backstory to explain away the incompetence of this character. His is the one that frustrates me the most, though Felix, Elsbeth, and Venetia (the other three leads) were so surface level and uninspired as to make me even more in awe of the actors for making the roles appear as anything more than moving stick figures. My final vexation with this movie was the ending. I am a sucker for a twist, always have been. This twist was so ridiculous, implausible, and irritating as to make all of the petrifying buildup and anticipation conglomerated in the first hour and a half deflate inside me and linger, waiting for the conclusion it promised. There is really only one word for the direction they took this movie in: stupid. To witness a movie with great actors, even better cinematography, and what started as an interesting plot, all to lead to that conclusion was truly asinine. There was no message, no emotion, no meaning behind it all. Instead it took its potential and wasted it on pretty sights and shock value and that’s why I didn’t hate Saltburn. What I feel towards it is more harsh than hate because it led me on like a bad boyfriend then spit on me for good measure.

Hello! My Name is Madeline Malak, I am from Redding California and a third year at UC Davis. I major in History, but I have always had a passion for literature whether that be reading others work or writing my own. My favorite book is The Count Of Monte Cristo. Some of my other interests include movie reviewing, listening to music, and being super funny, cool, and awesome.