The Invitation

 photo invitation_ver2_zpsdx4ycifp.jpg photo starrating-4stars.jpgHave you ever been invited to a dinner party you didn’t want to attend, but you went anyway because you figured the aftermath of skipping it would be worse than the actual event?  The Invitation concerns just such a get-together. As the story begins, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are driving up the Hollywood Hills to his former home. His ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard), is hosting an intimate soiree with her new husband David (Michiel Huisman). You can tell by Will’s demeanor that he’s dreading it. It’s been over two years since they’ve seen each other. The trip doesn’t get off to a good start. He accidentally hits a coyote on the way up and is forced to humanely kill the poor animal in order to put it out of its misery. The chance occurrence is random but it sets the tone.

A smattering of guests show up at the intimate gathering. There’s a mixture of mutual friends and a couple of unfamiliar acquaintances present too. Will’s relationship with his ex-wife Eden is key. They share a tragedy. Eden’s relationship with her new husband David is important too. Throughout the course of the film we gradually develop an understanding of who these people are and what makes them tick. Director Karyn Kusama injects brief flashbacks of Will and Eden’s former life together and we start to understand more about what happened in their marriage. Then the guests play a variation of the party game “Never Have I Ever” called “I Want.” You’ve seen this type of material before. The soul searching thirty-somethings expressing their thoughts over wine and hors d’oeuvres. But what makes The Invitation so effective is how it confounds expectations.

Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi really take their time in establishing the characters. Hosts Eden and David are so cordial. Are they overtly so or is that just in our heads? Will senses something is amiss. He grows ever more anxious. There is a fair amount of build up. So much so that after awhile you may be checking your watch as to where all this is headed. Rest assured, the gradual unfolding of the narrative serves to make the denouement even more effective. Karyn Kusama is an American director who first made a critical splash with the independent Girlfight in 2000. Then went Hollywood with bigger budgets and did Æon Flux (2005) and Jennifer’s Body (2009). The Invitation would suggest that she’s at her best with smaller scale pictures free from studio interference. I haven’t gone into the point of The Invitation. That’s something the viewer needs to decide after watching. All I can say is, it most definitively made me feel something and I liked the experience.

Addendum: I love awkward dinner party movies. Rope (1948), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967), Clue (1985). A small gathering of people can produce uneasy situations of clashing ideologies. It’s a self contained universe. Back in 2014, American writer/director James Ward Byrkit came out with Coherence. It was nifty little independent picture. The Invitation reminded me of that film. You should watch them both.

04-17-16

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21 Responses to “The Invitation”

  1. Nice review Mark. It takes its time to get going, which is why it works as well as it does for so long.

  2. Nice review. Hadn’t even heard of this onw before but now I’m intrigued

    • Fernando! Good to hear from you. The Invitation hasn’t gotten a lot of press but hopefully with good word of mouth, people will discover its hidden charms.

  3. I liked this movie – quite a bit – it does certainly takes it’s time but I thought it was worth it. I do wish they could have done *more with the ending but I’ll take it. Loved the big slo-mo scene about 2/3rds in : )

  4. I do think what you say is true – put together a small group at a dinner party, for example and there will always be uncomfortable moments – very interesting to think about!

  5. Good review Mark and thanks for not giving away too much. I’m curious about this indie flick.

  6. This sounds really interesting.

  7. Is it as creepy as it looks?

  8. I wasn’t overly happy with the pay-off but loved that end shot. That was a nice touch. Have to say, though, overall I was more impressed with Coherence last year.

    • The payoff is hard to discuss without spoiling so I won’t. I can understand why it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but that end shot kind of made the film for me.

      Coherence might have the edge for me too, but I enjoyed both a lot.

  9. Nice review, I was pretty happy with how it ended. I just watched this yesterday and was kinda hooked throughout. Somehow, I thought Will was an extremely interesting character and I liked how the movie tied everything up at the end. Nice slow-burning mystery.

  10. I agree, The Invitation is effective because it confounds expectations. It really takes its time; the true definition of a slow burn. By the time everything hits the fan, the film goes up to 11. I really enjoyed watching it and found its final reveal to be haunting. The movie one of my favorites from this year.

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