At The Movies: Very ‘Old’ school
“Old” is an old-school, dark, creepy science-fiction horror movie wrapped in a sunny picture-perfect family holiday resort island getaway.
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan (Oscar nominee, original screenplay, director, “The Sixth Sense,” 1999; director, ”Glass” (with scenes filmed at the former Allentown State Hospital), 2019; “Split,” 2016; ”The Village,” 2004; “Signs,” 2002; “Unbreakable, 2002”) again takes a genre and re-imagines it in an innovative, challenging and often shocking way.
Key to this, of course, are the visuals. Shyamalan, collaborating again with director of photography Mike Gioulakis (“Glass,” “Split”) creates a clarity and quirkiness often emblematic of an independent non-Hollywood studio film with extreme close-ups, unusual framing and unpredictable camera angles. The tremulous soundtrack by Trevor Gureckis enhances the film’s off-kilter vibe.
“Old” has the tone of an Alfred Hitchcock psychological thriller, not unlike “The Birds” (1963) when nature seems to be in revolt.
The cause of, so to speak, “Let’s Do The Time Warp Again” is never really explained in “Old,” nor was the reason for the avian attacks in “The Birds” ever fully explained.
That’s OK. I enjoy an Egg MacGuffin at any time of day, in any year, in any film.
“Old” has elements of “The Lord Of The Flies” (1963), but with adults, and Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” (1965), for its disappearing couples, here thrown together as if on a secluded beach at a Sandals resort that more and more looks like “Jurassic Park” (1993). Instead of attacking birds or berserk dinosaurs, we have vacationers with preexisting conditions.
Shyamalan (with a small but pivotal role in “Old”) has again fashioned a nifty genre mash-up of place and psyche where the place becomes the psyche.
A structural problem with the film, typical of screenplays where a character or characters age through the decades, is that several characters in “Old” are each played by several actors, portraying the characters at different ages.
These are key characters. Though it’s titled “Old,” the screenplay by Shyamalan based on “Sandcastle,” a graphic novel by Pierre-Oscar Lévy and Frederick Peeters, emphasizes the young people in the storyline. Hence, the irony. Hence, the intensity of the plot dilemma.
The character matches, though excellent, are distracting. The movie-goer hesitates in the mind’s eye and wonders, “Oh, isn’t that?” or “Gee, what age is the character now?”
It’s especially distracting when the premise is about sped-up aging. Dwelling on the differences in characters at the different ages takes the movie-goer right out of the film. It takes away from the film’s otherwise enchanting mood.
Thus, we have Alex Wolff and Emun Elliott as Trent Cappa. Wolff plays the 15-year-old Trent. Elliot plays the adult Trent. And we have Nolan River as the 6-year-old Trent. And there’s Luca Faustino Rodriguez as the 11-year-old Trent.
That’s four actors playing one character. Each is excellent.
And we have Thomasin McKenzie and Embeth Davidtz as Maddox Cappa. McKenzie plays the 16-year-old Maddox. Davidtz plays the adult Maddox. And Alexa Swinton plays 11-year-old Maddox.
That’s three actors playing one character. Each is excellent.
Also, Eliza Scanlen plays Kara, daughter of another couple. Scanlen plays the 15-year-old Kara. Kyle Bailey pays the 6-year-old Kara. Mikaya Fisher plays the 11-year-old Kara.
Again, three actors play one character. Again, each is excellent.
Kudos to Shyamalan and the casting director for matching the characters. The three characters are key to several plot points.
Trent and Maddox are son and daughter of Guy Cappa (an excellent nuanced performance by Gael García Bernal) and Prisca Cappa (an intriguing Vicky Krieps).
Fine in supporting roles are Rufus Sewell (Charles, a doctor) and Abbey Lee (Chrystal, Charles’s wife and Kara’s mother), a married couple; Kathleen Chalfant (Agnes, Charles’s mother); Nikki Amuka-Bird (Patricia) and Ken Leung (Jarin), a married couple; Aaron Pierre (Mid-Sized Sedan, a rapper); Gustaf Hammarsten (the resort manager); Francesca Eastwood (a resort employee), and Kailen Jude (Idlib, a friend of the young Trent).
The large cast adds to the confusion.
The screenplay provides several requisite moments to please the most avid horror movie fan. One scene I viewed between my fingers over my eyes.
“Old” is no day at the beach. Ultraviolet radiation can cause DNA changes in the skin, leading to premature aging and skin cancer.
When you see “Old,” even SPF 100 sunscreen won’t help.
Credit Readers Anonymous:
“Old” is the first M. Night Shyamalan film without a Philadelphia locale for the Penn Valley, Lower Merion Township, Montgomery County, native who lives with his wife and children on a Philadelphia area estate. I had hoped the Cappa family would have embarked on their island getaway from Philadelphia International Airport. “Old” was filmed in the Dominican Republic. Shyamalan’s daughter Ishana was second unit director. His daughter Saleka wrote the song “Remain,” heard at the end of the film.
At The Movies:
“Old” was seen on a sunny mid-day afternoon at the Movie Tavern Trexlertown, where I have been checking out the recently-reopened lounge, which displays photographs of Lehigh Valley natives or residents who became movie celebrities.
MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for strong violence, disturbing images, suggestive content, partial nudity and brief strong language; Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller Run time: 1 hr., 48 min. Distributed by Universal Pictures.
Movie Box Office,
July 30-Aug. 1: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, a Freedom High School, Class of 1990, Bethlehem Area School District, graduate, skippered “Jungle Cruise” to a No. 1 opening, with $35 million in 4,310 theaters, dropping “Old” to No. 2, with $6.7 million, in 3,379 theaters, $30.7 million, two weeks, keeping “The Green Knight” opening at No. 3 with $6.7 million, in 2,790 theaters, one week.
4. “Black Widow” dropped one place to No. 3, with $6.4 million, in 3,360 theaters; $167.1 million, four weeks. 5. “Stillwater,” starring Matt Damon, $5.1 million, in 2,531 theaters, opening. 6. “Space Jam: A New Legacy” dropped two places, $4.3 million, in 3,501 theaters; $60.8 million, three weeks. 7. “Snake Eyes” dropped five places, $4 million, in 3,540 theaters, $22.3 million, two weeks. 8. “F9: The Fast Saga” dropped three places, $2.6 million, in 2,348 theaters, $168.5 million, six weeks. 9. “Escape Room: Tournament Of Champions” dropped three places, $2.2 million, in 2,086 theaters, $20 million, three weeks. 10. “The Forever Purge” dropped two places, $1.1 million in 1,166 theaters, $42.7 million, five weeks.
Box office figures are from Box Office Mojo.
“The Suicide Squad.”
R: James Gunn directs Margot Robbie, Idris Elba and John Cena in the Action, Adventure, Science-Fiction, Comedy. Super-villains Harley Quinn, Bloodsport, Peacemaker and other convicts join Task Force X on the island of Corto Maltese.
R: Leos Carax directs Marion Cotillard, Angèle, Anaïs Dahl and Rebecca Dyson-Smith in the Musical, Drama Romance. A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife have a 2 year old daughter with an unusual talent.
R: Pablo Larraín directs Mariana Di Girólamo, Gael García Bernal, Santiago Cabrera and Paola Giannini in the Romance Drama. A couple’s adoptions disrupts their household.
Movie opening dates are from Internet Movie Database.
Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes