Friday Night Flix: Sightseers

sightseers1Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.

Apologies for the last two weeks. Haunter and Rubber were admittedly stinkers. I ran out of time to find alternatives. You got the best of what I watched in those weeks. Trust me, it could have been much worse.

To make amends, I have a genuine winner this week: Sightseers (Netflix). If you’ve heard of this movie at all it’s most likely because of director Ben Wheatley. With 2011’s outstanding Kill List he became genre filmmaking’s It boy for a while. Wheatley is a fine director but the real charm of Sightseers comes from the excellent performances of the two lead actors, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, who also happen to have written the damn thing. They are pretty much the shit.

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Aside from being by turns funny, heartwarming, unsettling and horrifying, the script has a depth of meaning to it, making an earnest statement beneath its dark comedy facade. On the surface there really isn’t much of a plot: a few months into their relationship a pair of awkward lovers embark on a tour of rural England. Somewhere along the way, they start killing folk. Pretty straightforward, but it takes an unexpected turn.

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Chris is the first to murder someone and he does it on his own, unbeknownst to Tina. When she finds out, she’s appalled but quickly gets over it. She even encourages Chris to kill again. Chris is ecstatic to finally feel supported but when Tina kills on her own, he freaks out. He curses at her, says she’s gone too far, she’s a bad influence on him, blah blah blah. At first glance that reversal makes no sense. Why wouldn’t Chris be pleased to see Tina take such an active interest in his hobby? Why wouldn’t he rejoice to have a soul mate who will never turn him in?

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Chris doesn’t take satisfaction from Tina killing because Chris isn’t looking for a partner. For all his sweetness and genuine charm, he just wants someone to fuck who won’t tell on him. Chris is psychotic but his behavior toward Tina can be seen in a lot of “normal” relationships. It’s an unfortunate cliche: a man woos a woman and finally wins her love, only to objectify and eventually ignore her. Chris’s insane killing spree overshadows his misogyny. You have dig to get to the critique of men who view women as possessions. For me that makes it more effective than something like Match Point, where it’s patently obvious how unfair Jonathan Rhys Meyers is to poor Scar-Jo.

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Added bonus: As word of the couple’s crimes spreads, they occasionally happen upon TVs showing news reports about them. Apparently in England a formal, newscast-worthy description of someone who looks like Chris is “ginger-faced”. British colloquialisms are the best.

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