[Sundance] INFINITY POOL Review – A Nightmare Vacation That Feels Surprisingly Under-Utilized
Contrary to popular belief, Brandon Cronenberg is a fairly distinct filmmaker from his esteemed father. The only real threads between the elder and younger Cronenberg are their shared interest in body horror and pessimistic worldview. However, everything else about their films and storytelling methods is pretty different, and it’s unlikely that Infinity Pool would be misattributed to David instead of his son.
Infinity Pool, the latest film written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg, has been hyped up quite a bit for its sexual and boundary-pushing content. However, the real meat of the film lies in its deceptively-simple premise. Struggling author James (Alexander Skarsgärd) encounters a mysterious actress named Gabi (Mia Goth) while he’s on vacation with his wife, Em (Cleopatra Coleman). Taken by Gabi’s lust for life and carefree attitude, James spends time with her and her husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert), only to discover that the city they are vacationing in has a bizarre loophole for any tourists that break their strict laws. The film asks a simple question: if there are no real consequences for your actions, then what’s stopping you from committing the worst atrocities known to us?
Unfortunately, Infinity Pool doesn’t want to explore that question beyond its most surface-level implications. Instead, it seems more concerned with shocking the audience with its graphic nudity, which is not inherently bad storytelling — lord knows we need more pure sensuality in movies nowadays, and for its credit, the film can be arousing. Unfortunately, much of the story outside these moments of psychedelic ecstasy feels unwilling to dissect its anti-capitalistic themes in a meaningful way. Its criticisms of how rich people are able to avoid consequences due to their wealth feel hollow, even if the ending is effective in solidifying how their evil cycle of abuse continues.
[Read] PEARL Review – An Unsettling Exploration of Sexual Rebellion
You can’t help but feel like there are elements of this story that need to be explored more than they are, and that the admittedly pretty visuals are just there to make up for this lack of depth. This is in strong contrast to Cronenberg’s earlier film, Possessor (2020), which explored its themes of privacy and gender dysphoria leading up to its unfortunately logical conclusion.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty to admire about Infinity Pool. Every member of its ensemble is on their A-game, especially Goth, who has several scenes that showcase her uncanny ability for controlled chaos. However, it’s arguably Coleman who brings in the most compelling performance, being tasked with being the angel on James’ shoulder, metaphorically speaking. While hypocritical, and benefitting from status as much as her husband does, Em has a restraint to her demeanor and line delivery that makes the audience truly care about her. Even with everything that happens in Infinity Pool, Em is the person you’ll feel the worst for, and that is in part because Coleman portrays her with such sensitivity.
Infinity Pool is not a bad movie. However, it’s hard to deny that there is wasted potential in developing its message. Although, it is also possible that that was the entire point. Is it possible that its unwillingness to get to the root of the debauchery of the rich and powerful is itself a condemnation? Perhaps, and if so, it certainly does it well. However, it still feels like a downgrade from the genius that was Possessor.