Mostly set in a sprawling palatial country stat is herald Fennel’s Saltburn the follow-up to her surprisingly duplicitous Promising Young Woman. More reverted than insightful than in that picture which starred a memorable Carey Mulligan who here is a narcissistic sponger, Pamela, in a noteworthy, if smaller part.
It’s 2006 with impoverished Oxford scholar ‘Ollie Quick (Barry Keoghan of Dunkirk) ingratiating his way into English aristocracy via Jacob Elordi’s Flex Catton, the ultra-suave BMOC. Ollie comes from a family beset by central health problems and drug addiction, and his serendipitous social ascension reveals an ominous trend of academia. With plenty of caustic, cynical wit plenty of chances for sex and violence arise from Ollie’s summer at the eponymous estate; lavish soirees have much to aspens with rock tunes heard from the likes of The Killers.
Being in the Catton clan (Elordi) displays some of that innate charm and virility from Priscilla allows Fennel to expose the highfalutin in sociopath through a deep covetousness. It’s a thorny eroticism that barely unravels with mishap right on the doorstep. It’s episodes sometimes have a Babylon charge about the with such stately presentation. As the private sides contradict public personas.
Eccentricities extend to Richard E. Grant’s shallow Sir James, Archie Madekwe’s antagonistic half-American cousin Farleigh. Alison Oliver’s bulimic Venetia is a source of attraction and bane for Ollie. And James’ wife (and Ollie’s dad) Elspeth exude haughty loud-mouthed wit in effortless, acne-stealing fashion from Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl).
It goes without saying that Saltburn has audacity to match is ambition. Unlike Woman Fennel can’t brew a darkly, resonant prescience more than an ultimately risible case of cruel intentions.