I’ve missed Karyn Kusama. I adored her last film, the Diablo Cody scripted Jennifer’s Body, and really feel like it was the victim of some ill-timed Megan Fox backlash. I felt like Kusama displayed a masterful control over that film’s mixed tone and generally provided something I got a lot of entertainment out of (I’ve now seen it at least four times). Whether or not you liked that film is almost irrelevant in this case, since The Invitation is an entirely different matter altogether. Starring Michiel Huisman, Logan Marshall-Green and Tammy Blanchard, the film tells the increasingly tense story of a man invited to a dinner party in his former home. The script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi plays almost all of its cards right and shit, as they say, hits the fan.
The Invitation played last night at the Concert Hall on the site of the Stanley Film Festival (more on the fest here) and, while I think this film would be better served by a full review timed closer to its release, my initial thoughts are that Kusama waited and chose the exact right project for her dive back into features. The Invitation is definitely slow burn, but it really nails something that most slow burn films miss – just because you’re saving a lot of incident for your climax doesn’t mean the primary narrative should be free of it as well. The film is always escalating. Marshall-Green provides a taut, human and grief-stricken performance of a caliber that we haven’t yet seen in his work, and I found myself thoroughly engaged in the mysteries and social anxieties on display in what plays out as almost a terrifying comedy of manners for the first two acts.
I’ll stop there, but if you enjoy shifting in your seat because of an escalating dread you can’t quite out your finger on, then The Invitation is for you. As it should be.