Agnieszka Smoczynska's The Lure is a cautionary tale of sisterhood, sexuality and the sometimes self-destructive things people do for love. It's also a diabolically wicked Polish-language musical about two beautiful mermaids who climb ashore in Warsaw. One is looking for love; the other, for dinner. The setup may borrow much from The Little Mermaid, but Robert Bolesto's screenplay gives its protagonists far more agency than Hans Christian Andersen and Disney ever did. From its ethereal beginning to its tragic end, The Lure keeps the mermaid sisters Sliver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska) in full control of their decisions.
"Help us come ashore, no need to fear," the mermaids sing. "We won't eat you." That's in response to a cabaret band -- led by Krysia (Kinga Preis) -- whose bass player, Mietek (Jakub Gierszal), entices the leads ashore with his own far-less-ominous song. These daughters of Triton become part of Krysia's act at an adult nightclub whose clientele likes its entertainment big, boisterous and bathed in strikingly bold living color.
The Lure puts to shame any notion that something as bland as La La Land is the future of the movie musical. Much of Smoczynska's film is sung, and the excellent music and lyrics by Ballady I Romanse propel the story, changing from disco to punk as the film progresses. The Lure has pointed things to say about women's bodies, hearts and minds -- and society's perception and perversion of each. It's no accident that the mermaids have mismatched names and that their human forms have no genitalia, but the film's messages are cleverly wrapped in Smoczynska's entertaining, original vision. It's sexy, fearless, fun and unrepentantly nasty.