A hypothetical audience’s potential preferences aside, The Rental delivers an engrossing, taut journey of characters with nothing left to lose, they just haven’t realized it yet. Christain Sprenger’s cinematography perfectly captures the isolation of both the abode and the characters, even with other people around. The editing, by Kyle Reiter, keeps the story moving at a brisk pace, without sacrificing character building. Dave Franco aptly balances the romantic tension of the characters’ lives with the ever-growing sense that something is amiss at the house. Each steamy scene is accentuated by a powerful score, composed by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans, which further draws the audience into its absorbing mystery.
The script, by Franco and Joe Swanberg, creates fully rounded and interesting characters. Charlie’s love for his wife feels authentic, but the screenplay carefully lays out his impulsiveness. Thus, when the cheating happens, it does not feel like an abrupt turnabout of the character. Happily, the filmmakers are similarly attuned to each of the four leads, ably allowing them to feel real. This means that the audience easily invests in their fate and will be on the edge of their seat to see what happens to them.
“…Franco assuredly directs a script populated with well-rounded characters…”
Of course, the characters that populate the movie’s world need the right actors to breathe life into them. Alison Brie is fantastic as Michelle, who emerges as the voice of reason. She and Dan Stevens share good chemistry, and she sells the transition from fun-loving to angry perfectly. As Charlie, Stevens has never been better. He is the exact right mixture of cocksure arrogance, sophisticated charm, and pure id. The character should be entirely hateable, but Stevens makes the audience feel a bit sorry for him.
Sheila Vand, as the sultry and hot-tempered Mina, is also fantastic. Her freaking out over the cameras’ discovery is believable and smoothly transitions The Rental into its next genre exploration. As Josh, Jeremy Allen White, at first seems only to be the comedic foil. His comic timing is excellent, and his moments of levity work wonderfully. As things become more heated, his turn towards seriousness works, as does his increasing desperation.
The Rental refuses to hold the audience’s hand, to the point of not explaining much of its thriller trappings. This may rub some the wrong way, as it might seem like the screenwriters just aren’t sure what to do about certain plot elements. But that is a minor issue in the face of all that The Rental offers. Dave Franco assuredly directs a script populated with well-rounded characters throughout an intense, atmospheric story that grips the audience early on and refuses to let go. Coupled with the amazing acting from a stellar cast, incredible score, and beautiful cinematography, and any viewer luckily enough to go on this journey won’t soon forget it.
"…Dave Franco makes his feature-length writing and directing debut..."