Midsommar (2019) Movie Review
The new horror movie Midsommar takes place far from the home of the main characters.
The use of the phrase “far from the home” in the previous sentence is about the only thing similar between Midsommar and this week’s other new release. Except for the “the”. You get what I’m trying to say.
If you’ve clicked on this, I have to assume you’ve already seen Spider-Man twice and are pre-buying tickets for a third time. You’re just passing the time away while your computer internet website page loads.
But if you’ve clicked on this because you want an opinion on Midsommar, just know that I thought writer/director Ari Aster’s previous film Hereditary was my personal favorite movie of 2018. It did for peanut allergies what Jaws did for sharks and I now have a picture folder of every single face Toni Collette makes during the course of the movie. I also like wearing floral prints, garlands, and own a vast array of flower crowns.
Some intrepid soul should get licensing for a Midsommar Etsy page after seeing this. White people would eat it up.
Needless to say I had lofty expectations of Midsommar. Were they met? Come with me to Sweden to find out.
Midsommar opens in the middle of winter, and that’s not the only thing that’s frosty. We meet our heroine (sort of) Dani (Florence Pugh). She’s been in a massive funk. More than a funk, it stands to reason she’s spent most of the past couple of years in what’s probably clinical depression.
Why? There are so many reasons.
Dani’s bipolar sister has Dani at her beck and call with her extreme mood swings. The movie starts with an unspeakable tragedy that we just won’t speak of. You remember the, um, car scene in Hereditary. This one matches it for shock value.
Dani’s day, Dani’s week, Dani’s life has just gone from bad to worse.
It doesn’t help that her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor, looking like Seth Rogen’s younger brother Beth Rogen) is about as emotionally distant as one can get.
It doesn’t help that Christian has wanted to break up with Dani for forever and he’s just been too chicken to take any action. He’s also lagging on his thesis and has been stuck in a holding pattern for years. He thinks breaking up with Dani will help him get over it but the audience knows that Christian is just making excuses.
Now with this most recent tragedy, Christian finds himself half-heartedly consoling Dani once again. Probably postponing a breakup again even though everyone knows it’ll probably never happen.
But instead of facing their issues…
While Dani’s been depressed, Christian has been not-so-secretly planning a trip to Sweden with his friends. He’s already bought a ticket when Dani finds out.
Honesty and forthrightness. The signs of a strong relationship.
Dani sort of weasels her way onto the trip. Nobody says no to her because of that unspeakable tragedy that we won’t speak of. You get the feeling Christian didn’t want her to come but speaking up or having a pair isn’t part of Christian’s skill set.
Speaking of friends, let’s meet them while they’re still alive.
- Josh (William Jackson Harper)- He’s been the keenest to go to Sweden because he’s doing his thesis on old religions or something. He’s also black. Should be just wish him RIP right now?
- Mark (Will Poulter)- He’s every loud, obnoxious American stereotype you can think of. A part of you is hoping he’s not the final girl. Actually, all of you is hoping he’s not the final girl.
- Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) – He’s the one that invited everyone to Sweden. He’s one of the few people that’s happy Dani is tagging along. You get the feeling he’d like to comfort Dani in more ways than one.
They all board a plane, then drive a car for four hours to get to Pelle’s remote Swedish town. I’m sure they actually say the name of the place during the movie, but it has over 15 syllables and I just couldn’t remember it.
They take mushrooms. Fun!
They realize the sun doesn’t set at midnight. Fun? Who needs circadian rhythms?
When they arrive, there’s exposition by super white people with Swedish accents about how they’ve arrived at a festival that occurs every 90 years and takes place over the course of 9 days. They say ‘9’ the way Us uses the number ‘11’. That doesn’t seem ominous or (Swedish) fishy at all.
It’s a good thing that Christian (is it a coincidence he’s named after a certain popular religion?) and Dani (is it a coincidence that her name rhymes with Manny?) are at a rocky point in their relationship, because nothing brings couples closer together than going to a foreign country where you can’t speak the language and have no context to what’s going on.
Did Dani mention it’s also her birthday?
This is about the point where things start to get odd. And by odd, I mean really odd. And by odd, I mean bonkers. I actually wrote in my notes, “This is getting bonkers,” and “I forgot my pants.”
Before we go, you do have to wonder what’s up with that redhead who’s taking a serious shine to Christian.
And what about that cage containing a giant bear? Are we just going to ignore that bear?
Knowing what we know from Hereditary, nothing bad will happen and everyone involved will have a happy ending.
Except for Josh. Because he’s black. And it’s a horror movie.
What Works With Midsommar
- One can’t help comparing Hereditary to Midsommar, so kudos to Ari Aster for making them reasonably far removed from each other. There are stylistic similarities, but you’re glad Aster isn’t mining the same material for cheap scares. I personally found Hereditary scarier by degrees, but there isn’t a moment in Midsommar where the audience feels completely comfortable. There’s usually something in the frame that catches your eye and unsettles you, even if you aren’t sure what you just saw.
- The day 1 ritual – there were some audience members behind and in front of me that gasped out loud. I’ll admit I did a surprised face and choked on my popcorn and was technically dead for about 46 seconds.
- Dance your ass off. Did not expect to be quoting Footloose during this review.
- Henrik Swensson’s production design is a feast for your eyes even if you spend a good portion of the movie averting them. You could watch Midsommar with the sound off one of these days just to focus on the beauty of Swensson’s creations.
What Doesn't Work With Midsommar
- Midsommar clocks in at 2 hours and 20 minutes. No horror movie needs to be that long. Not saying it was ever tedious, but a couple of minor edits would have tightened the narrative better.
Deliberate but never boring, Midsommar is not what you’d expect to be opening on 4th of July weekend. We’re better off for it as it jolts what has been a pretty lackluster summer at the movies and makes up for the feeble Annabelle movie you yawned at last week. You want cheap jump scares, go see Annabelle (really, don’t). You want to get unsettled to your core, go see Midsommar. We promise it’s not far from home.