Morbidly Beautiful

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It may not be what you’re expecting or what you’re used to, but “An Exquisite Meal” promises to take you on a wild, unpredictable ride.

I will preface this review by stating that I am definitely treading outside my movie comfort zone here. However, that is not a complaint but rather a declaration of victory as I check off yet another notch on the bedpost of my broadened horizons.

I am used to gory, slashy, bloody flicks. And I’ve also watched my share of slow-burning, jump-scary, terrifying fare. While An Exquisite Meal (2021) features many of those elements, it is more dark comedy than anything. Though it’s not the type of film I usually watch, I popped a couple of CBD gummies and gave it a whirl.

After a stirring opening sequence that is partially animated (don’t you miss animated opening credits?) with a cool, upbeat tune, I was so glad I did.

There are various styles of comedy used throughout, most of it highbrow, but there’s some fish-out-of-water stuff, some comedy of errors, generational satire, and tons of cringe.

In terms of tone, the best frame of reference to which I had to compare this enjoyably quirky film was 1995’s The Last Supper, a Cameron Diaz vehicle about a group of liberals who decide to bury a bunch of conservatives in the backyard to fertilize their tomatoes.

But An Exquisite Meal is decidedly less straightforward in its approach.

Writer/director Robert Bruce Carter is not afraid to present morbidity in a non-conventional, surrealistic manner in his first full-length feature.

Add an almost Pythonesque sense of humor, and you’ve got something really special.

This is modern America (which may be why I didn’t quite fully connect; I’m stuck somewhere between the ‘70s and ‘80s, thank you very much).

It’s a place where sex is both casual and strictly regulated; a place where the class struggle continues to be very real yet is distorted and almost relegated to a mere nuisance by those who can afford to do so; and a place where a dinner party can mutate into a Freudian nightmare where no one knows who is who or what the actual fuck is going on.

God bless the USA!

I’m not going to lie; some of the archetypal characters are not the sort of folks I find myself dealing with regularly. That’s kind of the point, though.

We have a well-to-do couple in an upscale city home about to have a dinner party. We have a more than a nosy blue-collar neighbor who sort of invites himself. We have a beta male and his perpetually unsatisfied partner. We have an idealistic young lady who plans to change the world one Yoga session at a time. And lastly, we have a pseudo-intellectual French(?) philosopher who seems to show up for the sole purpose of injecting satire.

Oh, and how could I forget the dead delivery guy on the front lawn?

I can work with that.

Thankfully, the cast is talented, and the action is paced in such a manner as to keep things moving forward, albeit with a club foot.

If you’re not used to what the official website describes as a “dark comedy arthouse thriller western satire,” you may be in for a bit of a bumpy ride.

But you’ll want to saddle up and pay attention to these hilarious caricatures who can’t get enough of themselves.

There is plenty to enjoy for filmgoers of all bents, and it’s clear that the film doesn’t commit the sin of taking itself too seriously, which definitely helps. There is murder, blood, a sense of dread, and above all, an umbrella of absurdity that hooks you from the start and doesn’t let go till the end.

Ah, and a stirring soundtrack Michael Bay would be proud of (not really, but it is good).

Ten minutes in, and you too will be asking, “What the hell is in the oven?”

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3.5

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