January 12, 2024 – Most people can't seem to help themselves when it comes to judging other people by appearances, even though this can be a very dangerous and costly mistake.
A case in point, Oliver Quick (played by Barry Keoghan of “The Banshees of Inisherin”) a seemingly mild-mannered, socially awkward freshman scholarship student at Oxford. Oliver can't afford the expensive, fashionable clothing worn by his fellow classmates, and they know it. He and his fellow, socially awkward classmate, Michael Gavey (played by Ewan Mitchell of “High Life”) are outsiders looking enviously at elite Oxford social life.
While Gavey says he is content as an outsider, Oliver has his sights on the in crowd. He gets his chance when popular upper class student, Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi of “Priscilla”) gets a flat tire on his bicycle on the way to an important meeting. Oliver lends Felix his bike, and offers to walk Felix's bike back to campus.
Oliver becomes Felix's friend and Oliver promptly dumps Gavey. This is his entry into the “in crowd.” It is not exactly a smooth transition, however, as some of Felix's other friends resent Oliver and they continually remind him that they consider him inferior. They firmly believe he does not belong among the rich and fashionable people.
Eventually, Oliver is excluded from the in crowd, but then, Oliver's father dies. Felix feels sorry for him and lets him back in. Felix invites Oliver to his family's estate, Saltburn, where he hangs out among the British upper crust. Felix's family is eccentric, but Oliver finds ways to charm Felix's parents, Sir James (Richard E. Grant of “Persuasion” 2022) and Lady Elspeth (Rosamund Pike of “Radioactive”). In Saltburn, Oliver is considered a kind of sad welfare case.
Also at the estate is Felix's American cousin, Farleigh Start (Archie Madekwe of “Beau Is Afraid”) who has never liked Oliver and tries to sabotage him after he sees Oliver seducing Felix's sister, Venetia (Alison Oliver of “Five and a Half Love Stories in an Apartment in Vilnius, Lithuania”) but Oliver, who is tougher than he looks, fights back.
There some very strange things happening at Saltburn. Felix accidentally finds out that Oliver has been lying to him, and tells him to get out of Saltburn. Oliver tries to mend his friendship with Felix, but is rebuffed. Oliver is sent away by Sir James. Chaos suddenly reigns and tragedy strikes at the heart of Saltburn.
Oliver later observes that the upper class thinks itself superior, unassailable, invulnerable, he says they are, “Spoiled dogs, sleeping belly-up. No natural predators. Well, almost none.”
Barry Keoghan gives a brilliant performance as the complicated, many-sided Oliver Quick, ably supported by the rest of this talented cast. Writer-director Emerald Fennell (“Promising Young Woman”) creates a wicked study of social classes with some surprising plot twists. The location cinematography, by Linus Sandgren (“Babylon”) is excellent. This film rates a B+.
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