Tag Archives: Obedience

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: KINDS OF KINDNESS (2024)

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DIRECTED BY: Yorgos Lanthimos

FEATURING: , Emma Stone, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Mamoudou Athie

PLOT: A triptych of twisted modern fables from Yorgos Lanthimos: a boss dictates every aspect of his employee’s life; after his missing wife returns, a police officer suspects that she’s been replaced by a close copy; two cult members search for their messiah.

Still from Kinds of Kindness (2024)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: It’s narrative unpredictability from Hollywood’s foremost Greek surrealist, with trice the weirdness. John McEnroe’s broken racket will be gifted (and stolen), Emma Stone will cry “lick me again!” (not what you think), and dogs will (mostly) have a blast on the beach.

COMMENTS: With Kinds of Kindness, Yorgos Lanthimos seems intent on jettisoning any casual fans who might have come on board with Poor Things. Reuniting Lanthimos with screenwriting collaborator Efthimis Filippou, and shot several months after the hit fantasy with much of the same cast, Kindness was knocked out in a spiffy three weeks. Featuring murder, abortion, cannibalism, roofies, canine supremacy, and other kinds of bad behavior, the kindness-free Kindness works as a bitter palette cleanser for the frothy and sweet (by Lanthimos standards) Poor Things.

The three tales are linked by one “R.M.F.,” a peripheral character whose lends his name to all three titles. The stories range in tone from absurdist to magical realist, with digressions into genuine surrealism, but their dim view of core human behavior brings everything together. This time, Lanthimos steers away from stylistic excesses—no affectless acting, no ultra-wide lenses, no baroque sets—and lets the stories’ bizarre high concepts carry the weight. The director takes advantage of everyman Plemmons, a new addition to what is fast becoming a regular troupe, putting him front and center in the first two stories. In “The Death of R.M.F.” Plemmons is an exceptionally needy employee hiding behind a mustache, while “R.M.F. Is Flying” sees his cop descend into a paranoia that slowly transforms him into the coldest-hearted of bastards. Stone plays a key roles, especially in “Flying”—particularly her monologue about what happened to her when she was stranded on a deserted island, which, with its followup in the midpoint credits, lands as Kindness‘ most out-there moment—but really takes the spotlight for the finale, “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich.” There she plays the more obsessive of two traveling cult members on the messiah candidate-vetting circuit, who also has a troubled relationship with the child and husband she left behind to pursue this strange vocation. She drives a purple muscle car like a maniac and gets a Lanthimos-trademark weirdo dance scene. Dafoe and Qualley (and to a lesser extent, Chau and Athie) add fine support as they drift through the trilogy of tales, possessing the bodies of various characters as needed.

If there is a complaint, it’s that, while each story stands on its own at about 45 minutes, watching them back-to-back-to-back can be a bit trying. There’s little relief from the dour atmosphere. (It would work brilliantly as a three-episode miniseries.) But that’s a mighty small disclaimer, given the uncommon bounty here: literate absurdism delivered by a top-notch, thoroughly dedicated cast and crew.

There is a common theme running through the each of these parables: unthinking obedience, the willingness of people to commit any atrocity in exchange for a sense of belonging. This makes it a sly political allegory for our times. Kinds of Kindness could be set in any era, but it speaks to just how horrible it is to be alive in 2024.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Director Yorgos Lanthimos trips over himself reconnecting with his inner freak in ‘Kinds of Kindness,’ a frustrating triptych that works hard to reconfirm his weirdo cred after he experienced a pair of mainstream successes.”–Adam Graham, The Detroit News (contemporaneous)