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Review: “Saltburn” is a confusing, boring disaster

Jacob+Elordi+as+Felix+in+Saltburn%2C+directed+by+Emerald+Fennell.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Jacob Elordi as Felix in “Saltburn,” directed by Emerald Fennell.

Emerald Fennell’s sophomore feature “Saltburn” is, and I don’t put this lightly, one of the worst films I have seen this year. It’s a disaster in almost every department and almost never in a fun way. For the majority of its runtime, I was either confused at the mess I was watching or just bored.

For starters, the structure of “Saltburn” does it no favors. The movie’s opening has Barry Keoghan’s Oliver profess his love for Jacob Elordi’s Felix, all while future scenes of the two flash by the screen. The first act is then spent catching up to what the viewer already knows and has seen, a terrible choice that left me bored and waiting for anything new to happen.

The rest of the narrative is a slow burn with a few cool montages or “funny” scenes tossed in like jingling keys in front of a baby to try and distract them from what’s happening with flashing lights. To not spoil too much, there’s also some “gross” scenes of cheap provocation that will give away the movie’s attempted twists far before it’s ready to reveal them.

This brings me to the movie’s ending which, again, without spoiling too much, is kind of acting like a twist but it’s so clearly telegraphed that I would be shocked if a single audience member didn’t see it coming. That’s saying nothing of the true final scene which prioritizes its “hilarious,” dumb visual over any narrative significance.

Next are the performances which are shockingly largely bad. I mean, it’s not like Fennell’s script gives the cast much to work with. Elordi, much like in “Priscilla,” is legitimately great here and may be the one thing I enjoyed. Keoghan tries his hardest but he’s just given one too many terrible lines (not sure anyone could drop a “I’m a vampire” in the context of that scene and not make me laugh at how ridiculous it is). Rosamund Pike, far from her excellent performance in “Gone Girl” is basically a cartoon character here with a laughably terrible performance.

The cinematography is sure to please any fans of “Midsommar.” Shot in a cropped aspect ratio for no discernable reason, it’s filled with cool close-ups, reflections, colors and symmetry but doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose than to be screengrabbed and posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) later.

The themes are practically impossible to fully pick apart here. It’s a half-hearted class satire where the only message I could come out with is a full indictment of the middle class, where they are evil parasites who will try to destroy the upper class and everything they love.

In the end, “Saltburn” tries to be a dark and provocative satire but it just ends up vapid and dumb, both formally and thematically, and I was left with nothing else but a few visuals I wish I could forget.

13
View Comments (13)
About the Contributor
Mack Gowan, Opinions Editor
Mack Gowan is the opinions editor for Central Times. Mack is a senior and this is his third year on staff. He loves putting information all over his stories. In his free time, he enjoys solving puzzles, cooking and listening to Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins as well as Bladee. Mack wants to be a filmmaker when he grows up.
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Comments (13)

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  • D

    Daniel TrinhFeb 4, 2024 at 5:37 pm

    saltburn is good you were just sleeping the entire time

    Reply
  • S

    SilvinaJan 21, 2024 at 7:49 am

    The movie is a DISASTER. The lack of a script is at the root of it all.
    I made my husband watched this brick because Rosamund won the Golden Globes and I fell into the trap. She does not deserve that award! Give it back Rosita! The whole thing lacks good taste. The only scene I quite liked was the tennis game in tuxedos but again, it could well be a Diddy’s Vodka commercial… oh well almost three hours wasted. DO NOT FOLLOW MY STEPS and pick ANOTHER MOVIE

    Reply
  • L

    LukeJan 10, 2024 at 5:44 am

    Finally a review which hits the mark. Spot on!

    Reply
  • J

    J-bJan 9, 2024 at 11:23 pm

    Sounds about right, should be paid to watch it.

    Reply
  • C

    CamJan 8, 2024 at 5:58 pm

    After viewing, couldn’t shake off a sense of revulsion or rid my body of a filthy slime.
    Revolting.

    Reply
  • R

    RachelJan 7, 2024 at 10:23 pm

    I don’t even know where to start but I completely disagree with every point you made. Except the point on how you laugh/cringe at the vampire line. The opening actually adds to the question of the film as you wonder if the love he feels for Felix will ever happen and makes you think he will be sucked into the family, whereas he is the one doing the sucking. (literally at times). The twist makes it clear what you thought was going to happen, doesn’t. The acting. Well, I loved it. Maybe British dry humor isn’t for you, but the actors did a magnificent job at creating a sense of awkwardness within the wealth as well as time the jokes correctly. If you missed it, thats not on the writing. It’s just the dictionary definition of dry, British satire. Not to mention, Rosamund Pike was one of my favorites. She perfectly plays the picture perfect wealthy woman, completely hell bent on making sure her image remains pristine. Yes, it’s slow but that’s also the point. You’re confused, worried, intrigued, flabbergasted all for it to build up at the party. Not everything needs constant action every minute. Besides, the beautiful cinematography kept me interested even if one of the scenes was slower. There is also SO much depth within the theme. The bathtub, vampire scene, etc., he is literally eating the family to make it to the top. A literal take on “eat the rich” mixed with vulgar, provocative scenes.

    Reply
  • J

    JKDec 29, 2023 at 7:36 am

    I didn’t necessarily agree with all of your points, but I found it interesting that you managed to write a review that was almost identical to my bf’s. He.was.so.bored. Plus, he was able to tell me the basic ending long before we experienced it. I felt bad that the movie was my choice. I totally wasted his time because I was so insistent and had zero pre-movie hints. Everyone I know just said to watch it, and I did. Oh well.

    Reply
  • J

    jjDec 28, 2023 at 4:55 am

    amazing review, thee most spot on i have read. i think you need to cut the mom some slack and there’s a few cool moments here and there (sisters monologue) but overall pretty obvious ending

    Reply
  • J

    JavenDec 24, 2023 at 6:19 pm

    This guy rules!!!!

    Reply
  • H

    Helene PittlerDec 24, 2023 at 4:45 pm

    You missed the point of this story. You are much too literal and naive when it comes to excellent satire. Grow up and don’t take yourself so seriously.

    Reply
    • M

      MichaelJan 2, 2024 at 6:58 am

      Do please enlighten us. As someone considerably older and likely less naive than the poster, I couldn’t agree more with his review. I’m interested in what the actual point of the movie is. Please share.

      Reply
  • E

    EileenDec 24, 2023 at 1:09 am

    Agree 100%

    Reply
  • B

    BettyDec 23, 2023 at 11:26 pm

    Who wrote this lol you sound so miserable

    Reply