Well, Midsommar was an experience, to say the least. Following up Hereditary, last year’s breakout indie hit, wasn’t going to be an easy task, mostly because you probably loved it and had your expectations very high for Ari Aster’s next film or downright hated it and needed his next film to do a lot of the leg work to win you over on his style in general. And as you might expect, Midsommar played out the same way as Hereditary, with many heralding it as an iconic film while leaving others with a seriously bad taste in their mouths. Aster’s showing a strong sense of consistency early in his career, I suppose.
Members of the MovieBabble staff break down some of the more noteworthy parts of the film in our Midsommar Exit Survey. SPOILERS to follow.
Describe your overall enjoyment of the film with an appropriate gif.
What were your thoughts on Hereditary and how did they color your expectations for Midsommar?
Sean Coates: I was certainly in the minority who didn’t like Hereditary. I found that film to be a potentially great family drama/psychological thriller that was trapped in a really mediocre, uninspired and inexcusably derivative horror film. So I had low expectations for Midsommar and they were barely met.
Chris Wager: Hereditary was my favorite movie of last year, which created expectations I couldn’t imagine Midsommar being able to reach. It took days after my viewing, but I think those expectations somehow paid off. I didn’t see that coming, but I really hoped it was going to be possible.
Olaf Lesniak: I didn’t like it. It was a bunch of artistic white noise making up rules as it went along. For Midsommar I prepared for something similar.
Nick Kush: Thinking about Toni Collette’s scrunched, screaming face still haunts me to this day. Hereditary is such a fascinating debut that I simultaneously want to study it endlessly and never watch again because it was so unnerving. I suspected the same thing for Aster’s sophomore effort.
Who gives the better performance: Florence Pugh or Jack Reynor?
Sean Coates: You’re kidding, right? Much like Hereditary, There is a good lead female performance, but the movie spends way more time with a less interesting male supporting character played by an actor giving a really bad performance. Pugh is the only thing holding this film together, whereas I think Reynor is awful.
Chris Wager: During the movie, I dug everything that Florence Pugh did on screen. I was along for her journey and felt every tear and smile. On Jack Reynor, I kept thinking he was a skinny Seth Rogen and kept getting distracting thinking, “What if Seth Rogen was in Midsommar? ” Then that was all I wanted to see. It almost ruined the movie for me.
Olaf Lesniak: Give me a second. (Googles names) Oh, those guys! Definitely Florence Pugh. Her character was far more likable and more fleshed out from the start as opposed to Reynor’s. Acting-wise she had more room to play with different emotions and didn’t just react to the things happening around her. Also, she was cool in Fighting With My Family, for whatever that’s worth.
Nick Kush: I think Florence Pugh will be most people’s choice here, but I kind of love Reynor as a monumental dick. He is so UNGODLY passive aggressive in every interaction with Pugh’s character. Reynor is a great, great asshole and a perfect encapsulation of fuccbois everywhere.
Between Ari Aster and Jordan Peele, which new voice in horror are you more interested in moving forward?
Sean Coates: Aster is 0-2 for me, whereas Peele made the excellent Get Out. Despite me not liking Us and the fact that Peele’s social commentary is a little too blunt and heavy-handed for its own good, I have found Aster’s films thus far to be emotionally removed and really lacking any humanity. His films are also so transparently derivative of his inspirations to the point where it’s no longer an homage or done out of genuine passion.
Chris Wager: Ari Aster is more my style. I love weird films that make you think long after the credits have rolled. I enjoyed Get Out, but Us was confusing as the theatergoers I saw that movie with never stopped laughing. It made for a confusing experience, and I still don’t know what to think about that film. Jordan Peele tends to have a very obvious direction of his films that can make for a fun ride, but I more enjoy the helpless emotion that Aster can create for the audience.
Olaf Lesniak: What kind of choice is this? Who am I, Odysseus? My answer is John Krasinski.
Nick Kush: Strangely, though I imagine most people would choose Peele here, I’ve been less frustrated by Aster’s work than Peele’s so far in their careers. I like both Get Out and Us, but I can’t call either of them “great” movies from my perspective. Aster, on the other hand, has created a dense text in Hereditary and a very, very solid movie in Midsommar that I think may turn into something I’d call “great” over time. Both are fascinating, but I’d lean Aster.
Which pieces of Midsommar did not work for you?
Sean Coates: How long have you got? I’ll spare you my thesis and give the footnotes.
- Characters have no depth — all very one-dimensional
- The opening scene with the sister’s death felt so exploitative and feels like it only exists because Ari Aster wanted this disturbing image in the film for shock value
- The overexposed, white sheen in most shots was an eyesore. I get it’s meant to be stylistic, but come on.
- All of Will Poulter’s dialogue
- Interesting directions and story arcs the film hints at and could have gone down, but completely squanders them
- Way too long, yet still obvious that the film was cut to ribbons
Chris Wager: Actually, the ending worked the least for me at first. When the movie ended, I felt happy for Dani. Genuine happiness. Which then made me feel like the movie was wrong for evoking that emotion out of me. Based on everything that had happened to Dani and everyone else, happiness should have been the furthest emotion I should have been experiencing. Nonetheless, I sat there with a smile on my face. It made me think that the third act was done for comedy, and it ruined the film. I was upset, and a little disappointed.
It wasn’t until I did a little research and really thought about the film throughout the night that I realized exactly how I was supposed to feel. The idea of a horror film ending with happiness in at the center of so much pain and misery really makes this film stand out to me.
Olaf Lesniak: For more on this answer, see the next question.
Nick Kush: After the initial “holy hell what did I just see” shock wore off a tad, I began to notice how similar in structure Midsommar is to Hereditary. After a traumatic death (or deaths) at the beginning, both films follow the methodical decline of a woman’s psyche as she meets opposition from a significant, male counterpart that only makes this fall worse. The tension builds and builds after a horrendous act of violence truly sets everything into motion approximately one-third of the way through the film. From there, outside forces begin to tear more and more at this union until all hell breaks loose in the final act and the male figure is sacrificed in some grand gesture to put a bow on some catharsis for either the relationship of a family or a couple.
I get the sense that Aster borrows a lot from other films, including his own, which is a habit that he needs to break for his third film.
Take this opportunity to talk as you wish about that WILD third act.
Sean Coates: To prove my theory that Ari Aster wrote this screenplay while the Nicolas Cage Wicker Man remake was on cable in the background, it ends with Jack Reynor becoming paralyzed, being put in a bear costume and then getting burnt alive. That’s straight up theft right there!
Chris Wager: The third act actually almost ruined the movie for me. So much is happening, and it was hard to tell if there were moments that were being used as horror or comedy. Especially since it recreated my “Us” problem where people were laughing at the nudity.
I had a hard time trying to find the “horror” within the third act, which made me try to analyze if there was supposed to be horror in there, or more individual horror based on what phobias the viewer might have. For example, if you are afraid of people rooting you on during sex, then the third act could have been quite terrifying! However, the third act could be quite confusing if you are one to say…appreciate the positive support surrounding you during an intimate moment with a stranger who placed a love curse on you. It took days for me to put all of the pieces together and understand the larger scope of the film, and I know upon a second viewing that the third act will be wilder than I initially thought.
Olaf Lesniak: I was pretty surprised when I was an hour and a half into the movie and didn’t want to leave. “Could it be? A normal movie from Aster?” I thought to myself. Aster set this world with more subtly and care than Hereditary — directions serving a purpose and not ambiguity. Then act three happened and suddenly we’re back to Hereditary where there are more vague causes and effects ramped up to the max. Act three made me want to leave the theater, I was getting bored out of my mind. I give up. Can no one make coherent arthouse movies anymore?
Nick Kush: So my girlfriend went with me to see this one — thank the heavens that we have a solid relationship or this would have been a ROUGH watch — and we were both squirming in our seats as Reynor began the sex ritual. Then, as the women began to help him in the…act, and Reynor looked in shock as one of the women took his hand, we both burst out laughing from the absurdity of it all. And this is a compliment to Aster; Midsommar is wickedly funny throughout, and that scene gets incredibly funny while remaining pretty vile. That’s an almost impossible balancing act that Aster somehow accomplished.
What’s your letter grade of the film on an F to A+ scale?
Sean Coates: D+. Like Hereditary, I will certainly be in minority with this film, But Ari Aster does nothing for me. Florence Pugh is good and the way the film visualizes the hallucinations from the mushrooms is pretty cool, but this is just an overlong, soulless bore of a horror film that is more tedious than it is scary.
Chris Wager: A+. Midsommar was a gorgeous film with amazing performances and cinematograph
Midsommar is the experience I always look for within film: a movie that makes me think long after the credits have rolled. It has been almost a week and all I have thought about was when can I watch it again. I know there is still so much more to discover.
Olaf Lesniak: Midsommar has to settle for a D.
Nick Kush: I’ve cooled a just a bit on Midsommar since I first saw it, but it is still an A-. I’m so down for more strangeness from Aster; his style will always polarize, but I think I’ll always be on the positive side of that polarization.
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