We all get the grief we think we deserve.
A bunch of free-spirited and desperate actors get together and form something of an acting coalition. In it, they’ll impersonate dead people, for the living family-member’s who are left to pay for this kind of service. It’s made to help out with the grieving process and for awhile, that’s all it seems to be. It’s a little weird and creepy, but most people seem to be getting stuff out of it, so there’s no problem with that, right? Unfortunately, it all begins to change when even the actors start to lose loved-ones and begin using the same business, to help out their own grieving-process. Others, like a gymnast (Ariane Labed), go so far as to completely inhabit their “roles”, almost to the point of where they can’t really decipher between what their actual lives are, or what are the lives they’re being paid to live and reenact are.
They say that half of comedy, isn’t the joke, or even the meaning, but more of timing. And if that’s the case, then co-writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos has perhaps the most wicked sense of comedic-timing ever seen. Sure, his jokes, what they mean, and what they represent, are dark, messed-up, cruel, and generally upsetting, but the way in which he tells each and every joke, where the jokes are placed, how they come-up, and the general feel of the jokes, are what matters most and where he is at his most effective.
And with Alps, Lanthimos never once forgets to make every joke land and connect. Sure, it’s funny as is, the jokes themselves, but really, it’s his timing that’s a thing of beauty and puts it beyond just normal, everyday humor – it’s much more subversive and, in a way, brilliant. Does that make Alps, as a result, a great movie?
Well, not really.
It’s definitely funny and what Lanthimos is trying to get across with his many jokes, is smart and interesting, but at the end of it all, it is just a one-joke premise and movie. It talks about and even pokes a lot of fun at the grieving-process, the lies we tell ourselves to get over loss, and how it doesn’t really matter whether that person is lost or not, because we’ll always find ways to forget about them, or better yet, replace them, and it’s smart with it. Lanthimos isn’t afraid to mock ordinary life and make us not just laugh at ourselves, but hate ourselves at the same time.
It’s quite brilliant, like I said before, but really, it’s all that Alps can handle and maintain throughout its very short run-time of 90-minutes. And with those 90 minutes, all we really get is the same joke, over and over again, although, of course, with different iterations each and every time. It still works and oh yes, is very funny, but that’s all it is: Jokes. Again and again.
Is there any heart? Not really and that’s probably where the one issue comes from.
Of course, Lanthimos isn’t setting out to make a heartfelt, or even sweet tale of regret, grief, and loss, but it definitely wouldn’t have hurt, either. To just have your movie being darkness and subversiveness, throughout the whole time, honestly, can only go on for so long. The only idea of a sense of conflict we get is guessing who is paying for this service, who isn’t, and just whether or not what we are seeing is actually a joke, or not. It’s interesting, sure, but if that’s all you’ve got, there needs to be a tad bit more. And it’s not as if I’m the kind of movie-viewer who can’t handle disturbing stuff like this – trust me, I’ve seen far, far worse – but really, there comes a point in the movie where there’s no real plot, no real conflict, or even any real movement.
It’s just one joke, again and again, told in different forms, ways, shapes, or fashions.
It’s a good way to spend a stand-up bit. But for a whole movie? Not really.
Consensus: While poking fun at grief and loss in a very funny, almost too disturbing way and manner, Alps gets by on being original and quite different, but also feels a tad bit too long because of the limitations of the material itself.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Haos Film