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Venice Film Festival: Elena Ferrante, Olivia Colman and Resort Horror

VENICE – Are we at our best or at our worst when we go on vacation? Of course, these trips are made with good intentions, but when you’re determined to relax, that determination can feel a lot like work. Add in bad weather, a crying child, or broken hotel Wi-Fi, and sometimes you come home in a more run down state than when you left.

When it comes to talking about how easily vacations can push people to their limits, Hollywood has racked up a lot of flyer miles lately. The recent wave of film and television projects about The Good Trips Goes Wrong has even led Vulture film critic Alison Willmore to coined the phrase “resort town horror,” a term that could apply not only to ” Old ”by M. Night Shyamalan, a true horror film. on rapidly aging beach goers, but also on HBO’s “The White Lotus” and Hulu’s “Nine Perfect Strangers”, two limited series on the privileges found in some of the world’s finest getaways.

Isn’t it like this: We’ve been so eager to get out of our homes for the past year and a half, and now Hollywood is telling us that escape isn’t all it’s meant to be.

All of this has been on my mind after spending the last few days at the Venice Film Festival, a place so beautiful and glamorous that to make even one complaint (about the festival’s obtuse ticketing system, maybe ) makes you feel something like the moan, titled bro played by Jake Lacy in “The White Lotus”. But plenty of high-profile films here have also touched on the resort’s horror, like “Sundown,” with Tim Roth vacationing in Acapulco – a colleague dubbed him “The Even-Whiter Lotus” – and most importantly “The Lost. Daughter, ”Maggie Gyllenhaal’s directorial debut and the recipient of many Oscar talks.

Adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel, “The Lost Daughter” plays Olivia Colman as Leda, a British professor who has decided to take a solo trip to Greece. Upon arrival, Leda is presented with two potential love interests: Ed Harris, the nervous caretaker of her Airbnb, and “Normal People” escape Paul Mescal as a handsome cabana boy in short shorts. All that, and she stays right next to a nice quiet beach. Sounds ideal!

And it is, like the resort’s horror setup. Fairly quickly, things big and small start to take a turn for the worse: the fruit bowl in Leda’s apartment spoils dramatically, a huge, screaming insect appears on the pillow next to her, and an apple from pin is hurled at Leda from the sky as if the Greek gods had finally found a target worthy of their abuse. Worse yet, her quiet beach is overrun by a sprawling, screaming Queens family who won’t leave Leda alone.

This offspring includes young mother Nina (Dakota Johnson, now a veteran of resort horror thanks to “A Bigger Splash”) and the curious Callie (Dagmara Dominczyk), who doesn’t understand why Leda, a mother in her forties. , would like to vacation alone. “Children are an overwhelming responsibility,” Leda replies, and you can tell she means something even worse. By the time she flees the beach with a doll impulsively stolen from Nina’s daughter, it’s clear Leda has motherhood issues that even a solo trip can only trigger.

This, too, has been a recurring theme in Venice: in “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon”, starring Kate Hudson as a stripper mother, and Pedro Almodóvar’s drama “Parallel Mothers”, the female characters are up to date. about their lack of maternal instinct in a way that still seems all too rare in Hollywood. But none of those movies dabble in it like “The Lost Girl”, where we get flashbacks to a young Leda (played by Jessie Buckley) at her wit’s end with her two screaming daughters. Can the film earn an Oscar nomination for Best Sound just for making children’s screams so torturous?

Watching Colman unravel on the beach, I wondered what is behind the recent wave of bad trip plans, because they don’t seem to be going away any time soon. (This Ferrante adaptation comes even shortly after we saw a character from the “White Lotus” read his books.) Willmore argued that the horror of the resort, with its wide open beaches and exclusive clientele, is easier to shoot in the age of Covid; I also think the rich in Hollywood go on vacation a lot. They write what they know!

And maybe the holidays present only a compelling collision of expectations and reality, or a melting pot where the days of soul-searching can take a haunting turn. You know Leda won’t get out of Greece until she has faced her buried history, and maybe that’s the real moral of all those resort horror entries: it’s natural to want to get away from it all, but remember that a vacation requires you to bring your own luggage.

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