Emma Stone and Jesse Plemons in "Kinds of Kindness" Source: Searchlight Pictures

Review: 'Kinds of Kindness' Brings Kinds of Strangeness

Frank J. Avella READ TIME: 3 MIN.

Yorgos Lanthimos is becoming the kind of cinematic provocateur Lars von Trier used to be – a high compliment from this cinephile! Right on the heels of last year's Oscar-winning masterwork "Poor Things," he's released a bizarre, beguiling and sure-to-be divisive near-3-hour triptych satire, "Kinds of Kindness."

Collaborating with his "Dogtooth," "The Lobster," and "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" co-writer, Efthimis Filippou once again, Lanthimos presents three separate contemporary narratives that have nothing to do with one another, until you examine them closely. All three boast the same ensemble casts and are audacious meditations on manipulation and agency.

The first tale, titled "The Death of R.M.F.," centers on Robert (Jesse Plemons), a subdued, seemingly vapid man who allows his wealthy boss, Raymond (Willem Dafoe), to run his life, both at work and at home – and I mean completely, even dictating when he can have sex with his materialistic wife, Sarah (Hong Chau). Alas, when Raymond asks Robert to do something that might fatally harm another person, he refuses and discovers the kind of wrath Raymond has in store for anyone who dares to say no to him. Margaret Qualley plays Raymond's cuckoo wife, and Emma Stone is an optician who is also being puppeteered by Raymond.

The Plemons/Dafoe chemistry here is off the charts on all levels.

Story two, "R.M.F. is Flying," has Plemons playing Daniel, a cop whose biologist wife Liz (Stone) has gone missing. She is soon found and returns home, but Daniel becomes convinced that the Liz that is back is not his wife, but an imposter. What follows descends into the macabre as Daniel pushes Liz to the breaking point.

One of the many treats in this segment has Daniel, distressed that Liz might be dead, asking his partner (Mamoudou Athie) and his wife (Qualley) to watch a video they all made with Liz. The eye-opening moment is quite shocking and hilarious.

"R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich" is the third and least satisfying (but the most fascinating) of the three mini-films, and the best showcase for Stone. It's also the one that will likely turn many people off.

Stone is Emily, a member of a strange sex cult run by Omi (Dafoe) and Aka (Chau). Emily has abandoned her own husband (Joe Alwyn) and daughter and, along with another member (Plemons), is attempting to find a spiritual leader with the power to bring the dead back to life. It just gets weirder and more disturbing from there, with Qualley showing up as someone who may have the answers the group seeks.

The ending to triptych number three is priceless.

Plemons won the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor prize for his role, and he is certainly deserving for the first two (he doesn't do that much in the third work). He is fast becoming this generation's Philip Seymour Hoffman, only better. The gifted Stone has become a Yorgos muse, and his adoration for her shows in every frame she's in. Dafoe uses his eerie and quirky charms to great effect.

The strangest, most flummoxing situations are played as if they're the norm in "Kinds of Kindness," and one of the most exhilarating things about the film is how it treats bisexuality as commonplace, even under the creepiest of circumstances.

The film is also a warning about falling under the spell of those who are looking to manipulate for their own pleasure or sinister satisfaction.

At the end of the first part, the song "How Deep is Your Love" is sung (badly) by Qualley. It's a haunting question that keeps popping up again and again. "Kinds" may just have you questioning some of your relationships and how much is asked of you, and how much you demand from others.

"Kinds of Kindness" plays in theaters June 21.

by Frank J. Avella

Frank J. Avella is a proud EDGE and Awards Daily contributor. He serves as the GALECA Industry Liaison and is a Member of the New York Film Critics Online. His award-winning short film, FIG JAM, has shown in Festivals worldwide (figjamfilm.com). Frank's screenplays have won numerous awards in 17 countries. Recently produced plays include LURED & VATICAL FALLS, both O'Neill semifinalists. He is currently working on a highly personal project, FROCI, about the queer Italian/Italian-American experience. He is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild. https://filmfreeway.com/FrankAvella https://muckrack.com/fjaklute

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