Part of the problem with modern Hollywood fare is that, not only are the movies terrible—or at least terribly bland—the trailers are awful. You can’t tell whether you want to see a movie because the trailers are all the same and they all seem to spoil whatever meager surprise the movie might have in store. In the case of Ready or Not, for example, there are no less than two accidental murders (“accidental murders” makes sense in context) shown which set the tone, yes, but also spoil a lot of the early jokes. And AMC is showing 20+ minutes of trailers now, not to mention pre-trailer “content” as if we didn’t all have so much consarn content in our lives we actually needed more.
But I sat through one of these 20 minute trailer/torture sessions and learned the following:
- LOUD is EXCITING!
- LOUD is DRAMATIC!
- LOUD is FUNNY!
- LOUD is SCARY!
- LOUD is EVERYTHING!
I mean, I assume that 1) I’m an old man, and; 2) young whippersnappers today are just hollering their heads off while texting on their gizmos instead of paying attention to the (awful, awful) trailers. But the aggressive loudness and corporate sameness of the trailers actually makes the current crop of movies look worse than they probably are.
But, hell, I pay my $25/month tithe to AMC so I’m gonna see a damned movie, no matter how awful. And I had a feeling that this one might be to my taste, as I love a good black comedy—or even a bad one, to be honest. (I’m not as picky as my critique might suggest.)
And? Well, Ready or Not was good. It’s not gonna knock your socks off by any means, but it’s fun and well-made, and (as The Boy) pointed out, made by people who seemed to actually care about what’s going on.
The story is simple: Grace (Samra Weaving, Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Montana) has married Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien, Arrival) and per family tradition, the new member must play a game. Alex’s very wealthy family runs a gaming dominion—board games, quaintly enough—and this is just one of their little quirks. Why, the two most recently married siblings played Old Maid and chess. How charming!
But Grace gets “Hide and Seek”, and as the movie opener shows, in hide-and-seek, the new member hides and the rest of the family seeks—and kills—the hapless newlywed. This happened 30 years earlier and we see Alex’s older brother Daniel (played in adult form by Adam Brody, Yoga Hosers) protecting him from viewing the murder or participating. (Daniel is now an alcoholic jerk who likes to hit on Grace.)
Anyway, this is your set up: A bunch of rich people and their servants chasing Grace around a mansion and points beyond.
The story raises a lot of questions, of course: We can gloss over the whole underlying question of why would anyone do this, though the movie gives us a premise that is serviceable enough for the genre. But what the movie does rather well is address the emotional “why”. Why would Alex, who presumably genuinely loves Grace, put her into this situation? The movie gives us several possible answers all while raising a lot of absolutely necessary questions regarding Alex’s character. This creates some good tension.
And it’s the sort of thing that The Boy and I talk about when we say “somebody cared”. It’s easy enough to have some cool effects and thrilling moments all piled up into a hash. But when you treat your characters with a certain amount of respect—not just as vehicles for plot points—you get what we call “a real movie”.
For example, it’s very clear that none of the Le Domases really wants to do this. They feel they must. And they’re not especially competent—a fact highlighted in the over-revealing trailer—which leads to the darker comedic moments. But they all have different reactions to their fates.
Alex’s mom, Becky (played by Andie Macdowell, whom I liked better here at 60 than I did in heyday in the ’90s) is really nice to Grace and seems to really mean it. But she also really means it when she sets out to kill her—for the family. Meanwhile, brother-in-law Fitch (Kristian Bruun, Mark O’Brien’s co-star in How To Plan An Orgy In A Small Town), is very much on the fence as to whether or not the murder is really necessary. By contrast, Daniel’s wife Charity (the very hot Elyse Levesque, who shares credits with Bruun on “Orphan Black”) is in the “better safe than sorry” camp.
In other words, from a comical/comic-book premise, we get characters who act how people might actually act in such bizarre circumstances. So you end up caring. That means that when Grace suffers, you feel some of that pain. When she nearly gets away, you root for her to make it that last mile. When she stops one of her attackers, you’re happy for her, in sort of a grim way. This is a hard thing to do in black comedy, which has a tendency to flatten characters out to make some sort of ironic point.
I realized how it was going to play out just before the climax of the film, but at the point where there was only one reasonable dramatic choice, so it kept me guessing as long as it could—without ruining itself by trying to add a shocking twist! I could tell from the beats how the denouement was going to go as well, and it was a bit…garish…I guess you’d call it? But it was probably the only thing a modern audience would’ve accepted, so no points deducted there.