Kinds of Kindness Image

Kinds of Kindness

By Dan Lybarger | July 8, 2024

NOW IN THEATERS! It’s a given that any movie directed by Yorgos Lanthimos will be dark, quirky, and more than a little kinky, but the Greek director is at his best when he balances his cynicism with compassion.

Much of the reason The Lobster, The Favourite, and Poor Things offered more than exercises in production design and dark whimsy is that viewers always got a sense Lanthimos identified with his characters’ struggles to overcome or at least maintain their dignity despite oppressive systems of control. With his latest movie, Kinds of Kindness, I’m not so sure.

The creativity and daring are abundantly evident, but there is a sense that he’s overlooking his characters as if they are ants, torching them with a magnifying glass and asking us to delight in their misfortunes.

In the first of three tales involving an enigmatic individual dubbed RMF (Yorgo Stefanakos), Jesse Plemons stars as Robert, a fellow who really can’t get away from his job at an architectural firm.

When he’s not at the office, Robert must wake, eat, read and even make love to his wife Sarah (Hong Chau) exactly as his boss Raymond (Willem Dafoe) specifies. In fact, the two became a couple because of Raymond’s machinations.

Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn in KINDS OF KINDNESS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2024 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved.

“…overlooking his characters as if they are ants, and he’s torching them with a magnifying glass and asking us to revel in their misfortunes.”

Most of us might chafe at having to read Anna Karenina every night as if it were scripture, but how can you not love the bizarre sports memorabilia Raymond leaves at your door every day (to the credit of Lanthimos and co-screenwriter Efthimis Filippou—these have to be seen)?

The rewards don’t seem so cushy when Raymond, who’s also involved with Robert, informs his employee he must intentionally ram a car into another motorist’s path.

For once, Robert finally says no and sees his privileged life collapse. Worse, he has no idea what to do with himself when someone else isn’t calling the shots.

In the second segment, Plemons is back as a policeman named Daniel, who is understandably distraught because the boat carrying his wife Liz (Emma Stone) has wrecked, and no one knows if she has survived. One wonders if he should even stay on the job. Simple dinners with his partner Neil (Mamoudou Athie) and his wife Martha (Margaret Qualley) turn into disturbing endurance tests. Daniel’s home videos are sentimental to him and the sort of thing that might lead to restraining orders.

When Liz survives, Daniel becomes even more unhinged. Instead of being as overjoyed as she is or relieved, he thinks she’s a doppelgänger and asks her to commit outrageous feats to prove she’s real.

Perhaps Daniel chose the wrong line of work?

Lanthimos saves the most bizarre segment for last.

Kinds of Kindness (2024)

Directed: Yorgos Lanthimos

Written: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou

Starring: Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Mamoudou Athie, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Kinds of Kindness Image

"…patrons in the theater may stare back at you with hostility when you start to chuckle."

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