Venice Film Festival: Elena Ferrante, Olivia Colman and Resort Horror


Are we at our best or at our worst when we go on vacation? Sure, these trips are made with good intentions, but when you’re determined to relax, that determination can feel too much like work. In bad weather, a crying child, or drop hotel Wi-Fi, and sometimes you’re back home in a messier state than when you left.

When it comes to chronicling how easily a vacation can push people to extremes, Hollywood has been making frequent flights lately. The demise of recent movies and TV projects about bon voyages has even shocked Vulture film critic Alison Willmore. Monetize “resort horror” a term that just doesn’t apply to M. Night Shyamalan’s “Old” a real horror movie about fast-aging beachgoers, but also for HBOs “White Lotus” and Hulu “Nine Perfect Strangers” two limited series about privilege punctured in some of the most beautiful getaways in the world.

Isn’t that just the case: For the past year and a half we’ve been so anxious to leave our homes, and now Hollywood is telling us that escapism isn’t all well.

After spending the last few days in the hospital, this was all on my mind. Venice Film Festival, such a magnificent and attractive place that even a single complaint (perhaps about the festival’s extensive ticket system) makes you feel something like a whining. Jake Ruched In “White Lotus”. But many of the high-profile movies out there also deal with holiday scares. “Sunset” with Tim Roth Vacationing in Acapulco – a colleague called it “Whiter Lotus” – and especially “Lost Daughter,” It’s Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut and has plenty of Oscar babble.

Adapted from the novel. Elena FerranteIn “The Lost Daughter,” Olivia Colman plays Leda, a British professor who decides to take a solo trip to Greece. Upon her arrival, Leda is presented with two potential love interests: Ed Harris, the wiry babysitter of her Airbnb, and Paul Mescal, who escaped “Normal People” as a flirty coat boy in short shorts. All that and staying right next to a beautiful, quiet beach. Sounds ideal!

And it is as setup for holiday horror. Before long, things both big and small start to go wrong: the fruit bowl in Leda’s apartment deteriorates dramatically, a huge, squawking insect appears on the pillow next to her, and a pinecone is thrown from the sky at Leda like a Greek. The gods had finally found a worthy target for their exploits. Worse, its quiet beach is overrun by a sprawling, squeaky family from Queens who won’t leave Leda alone.

This brood features teen mom Nina (Dakota Johnson, now a vacation-horror veteran, thanks to her).A Bigger Leap”) and inquisitive Callie (Dagmara Dominczyk), who can’t understand why Leda, a mother in her 40s, wants to take a vacation alone. “Children are an overwhelming responsibility,” Leda replies, and you can tell she wants to say something even worse. When Nina runs off the beach with a doll that was impulsively stolen from her daughter, it’s clear that Leda has some issues with motherhood that even a solo trip can’t help but trigger.

This was a recurring theme in Venice: in “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon,” starring Kate Hudson as a stripper mother, and in Pedro Almodóvar’s drama that changes at birth, “Parallel Mothers,” female characters are honest about their lives. A lack of maternal instincts, still very rare in Hollywood. But none of these movies get into it like “The Lost Daughter,” where we get flashbacks to a young Leda (played by Jessie Buckley) with her two screaming daughters. Could the movie win an Oscar nomination for best sound simply because it made children’s screams so excruciating?

As I watched Colman unravel on the beach, I wondered what was behind the recent surge in these bad trip projects, because they don’t look like they’re going away anytime soon. (This Ferrante adaptation comes even shortly after seeing a “White Lotus” character reading his books.) Willmore suggested that the resort horror movie, with its wide-open beaches and private clients, was easier to shoot in the Covid era; I also think that the rich in Hollywood take a lot of vacations. They write what they know!

And perhaps the holiday presents an irresistible clash of expectations with reality, or a crucible where days self-reflection can take a haunting turn. You know that Leda can’t leave Greece without confronting her buried past, and maybe that’s the real moral of all these vacation-horror records: It’s natural to want to get away from it all, but remember, vacationing requires you to bring your own luggage.


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