A man accepts an invitation to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, an unsettling affair that reopens old wounds and creates new tensions.A man accepts an invitation to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, an unsettling affair that reopens old wounds and creates new tensions.A man accepts an invitation to a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, an unsettling affair that reopens old wounds and creates new tensions.
The disturbing atmosphere and pervasive sense of dread that are hallmarks of "The Invitation" are established early on. Will and Kira have received a formal invitation to a party at the home Will and his ex-wife formerly shared, and out of a sense of social obligation, they are attending. On the way, Will hits a coyote and has to euthanize it with a tire iron. His revulsion is a revealing introduction to his character and a heck of a way to start both a movie and an evening out. What follows is a deeply uncomfortable study in going along to get along that the viewer knows will have to end poorly.
The principal actors all proffer good performances, especially Logan Marshall-Green, who does outstanding work in the lead role. Michiel Hulsman and Tammy Blanchard, both sporting the look of crazy, expertly ramp up the ick factor as ex-wife/paramour and cult recruiters. Also noteworthy: Lindsay Burdge and John Carroll Lynch as malevolent whack jobs are slightly over the top, but they do a superb job of making you hate both their characters and cults in general, which is their razon de etra.
While the entire cast's acting is never worse than competent, the top of the bill still compensates for lesser performances. A few of the characters have so little to do that they might as well have been absent. They're cardboard cutouts that are barely needed, even to move the narrative along. It's a flaw, but as flaws go, a minor one that doesn't confuse the story.
The plot doesn't offer many surprises; as viewers, we're kept fully informed from the beginning. When Will and Kira enter the beautiful house overlooking downtown Los Angeles, nothing feels right. When their hosts lock themselves and their guests inside with the explanation that there have been recent home invasions, we know it's creepy. The screening of a video with obvious cult overtones and an awkward "truth game" rife with overt sexual come-ons continue to ramp up the tension. As a result, Will's anxiety grows, and ours grows along with it, and while other guests dismiss Will's apprehension as the emotional machinations of a grieving father, we know something bad is going to happen.
"The Invitation" also is not without its messages, exploring societal issues Americans have been grappling with in earnest for about a decade. Is the claim of "offense" by social bullies such an overwhelming power play that people will ignore their fight or flight instincts rather than be perceived as giving it? Is the need for peer approval so strong that we will set aside our own sensitivities and allow ourselves to be coerced into compliance? Is groupthink so potent that it can compel us to act against our own better judgment and best interests, even to the point of self harm? These questions are never fully answered, but the implications are worrisome.
As Kusama continues to turn the screw and the plot lurches toward it's inevitable conclusion, we are confronted with a final twist that, while unexpected, is not particularly original. Nevertheless, loose ends are mostly tied up and you won't feel cheated, even though you'll likely have a sense all along of where the whole affair is heading.
Ultimately, "The Invitation" is an entertaining movie that, while imperfect, is a solid effort and a fine vehicle for escaping a crappy week at work. Enjoy it.
- Jun 10, 2021