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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Midsommar

Title: Midsommar

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:

HOMER: God bless those pagans.


Brief Plot Synopsis: Maybe just go to Bonnaroo next time.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 4 Ingas out of 5.

Tagline: "Let the festivities begin."

Better Tagline: "It's just a spring clean for the May Queen."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian's (Jack Reynor) relationship wasn't going all that great even before an unexpected tragedy struck her family, so it perhaps wasn't the wisest move for Dani to tag along on Christian and his buds' planned trip to Sweden to attend a nine-day midsummer festival thrown by fellow grad student Pelle's (Vilhelm Blomgren) community. The good news, if you want to call it that, is that events transpire soon enough to make Dani forget all about that family thing.

"Critical" Analysis: Writer/director Ari Aster's Hereditary was a kick in the head (no pun intended), upending A24's reputation for previous slow burn horror releases. It was also a critical and financial success, so expectations are high for his sophomore feature film, and Midsommar mostly lives up to them.

Though it's interesting to note the former was originally meant to be a "family drama" (and honestly still is, in the most extreme sense of the term), while Midsommar may have been intended as pure horror, but is ultimately about a failing relationship. Think Modern Romance, only with mushrooms and body horror.

Tonally, the two movies couldn't be more different. Where Hereditatry was all shadows and murk and fell things lurking in corners, Midsommar is almost preternaturally bright. The horrors play out under the "midnight sun" of Swedish summer, adding to the atmosphere of unreality and making what plays out even more unsettling when juxtaposed with the earlier events of the film.

Midsommar is also, deliberately more often than not, a much funnier film. Aster's decision to send Christian's friends along as audience avatars was a wise choice, because much of what Pelle's "family" gets up to would be ... a bit much without a third-person perspective. Mark (Will Poulter), being more interested in getting laid than anthropology, offers the "bro" perspective. while Josh (The Good Place's William Jackson Harper) provides mostly deadpan observations.

An example: "So we're just going to ignore the bear?"

So while it's not as harrowing, it definitely makes for a disquieting experience. It's as much a result of dread at what's to come (have Kids These Days never seen either Wicker Man?) as it is the shocking visual moments (Aster does have a fondness for head trauma). He also has a real knack for showcasing the horror resulting from large groups of white people getting together (Utahn cults, Swedish pagans).

Gaining confidence from his success, the director demonstrates a sure hand behind the camera, letting shots unfold organically and creating an expansive world set almost entirely within the confines of Pelle's family's "compound." The movie is over two hours long, but things roll along seamlessly enough you don't really notice.

And just as in Hereditary, we have another brilliant lead performance that's likely going to be completely overlooked during awards season. Pugh has to work through tragedy, grief, and horror and does so admirably. It's a remarkable (and unexpectedly triumphant) job by the young woman.

The question is whether audiences will stick with Aster all the way through, as the horror this time is a subjective experience (outsiders aghast at local custom) until it becomes involuntary. And the final sequence draws out so much it threatens to dilute the impact of the climax, when Dani and Christian's mutual indifference becomes something more malevolent. In the end, Midsommar might not be as popular as its predecessor, but it's no less affecting a viewing experience.

Midsommar is in theaters Wednesday. See it if you're not "unclouded by normal cognition."

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