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The Green Knight

The Green Knight -

Have you ever thought up "what if" scenarios about movies like "what if Disney produced a Halloween movie" or "what if David Cronenberg directed Patch Adams?" The Green Knight plays out like you'd expect if you asked, "what if A24 produced a movie based on Arthurian legend?" To be fair, I love a lot of movies the studio is associated with, especially Moonlight and Good Time, but I'm not the only one who’s first thought when their logo appears on the screen - admittedly, internet memes are partially to blame - and think "art house." While I love many movies considered art house fare, the flourishes in movies with this label, whether they're unusual camera angles, lens flare, color saturation, etc. range from appropriate, meaningful, organic, etc. to showing off, and I believe that most of the ones in this movie fall into the latter category. In other words, well, word, which I hate to say because it's is often misused, but "pretentious" could apply here. Case in point: there's a long take showing Gawain and his horse leaving Camelot to face the titular foe. While it indicates how alone they are on this mission, it calls too much attention to itself, overstays its welcome and made me wonder if director David Lowery's real intent is for me to think "wow, that’s a cool shot" instead of understanding the scene's purpose. An unfortunate side effect of all this showing off is that it kept me at a distance from our hero, which is not only disappointing because he's in nearly every shot, but also because he's played by Dev Patel, who is one of my favorite actors lately. Despite how many affectations are in the movie and how disconnected it made me feel, there are enough good things in it for me to mildly recommend it. The supporting cast, Sean Harris as King Arthur and Joel Edgerton as a castle lord in particular, give professional and possibly the best performances I've seen by them, the atmosphere is organically murky and mysterious when it needs to be, and if any of the flourishes worked for me, the ones that created ambiguity about what's real and what's a product of Gawain's imagination and anxieties definitely did. It's too bad that it ultimately amounted to the movie version of a thin soup in an overly ornate ceramic bowl to me, not to mention filled my head with more "what if" scenarios. Specifically, what if William Friedkin, Martin Scorsese or someone else like them had directed this? I'm not asking because of their skill levels - I mean, Lowery may have their potential - but because they are directors who excel at letting the audience walk in their protagonists' shoes and at telling stories like this one in which their character, bravery, beliefs, etc. are put to the test. Lowery, on the other hand, made me feel like there was a film school between Gawain and myself.