Wednesday, May 11, 2016

You may not want to move into this 'High-Rise'

J. G. Ballard isn't an easy novelist to adapt. Want proof? Try High-Rise, a big-screen adaptation of Ballard's 1975 novel about the chasm between Britain's upper crust and the country's rude-and-scoffing multitudes. Set almost entirely in a caste-oriented apartment building, the novel puts the privileges and savagery of wealth on display. In the hands of director Ben Wheatley, High-Rise becomes a chaotic satire whose main points survive, but whose minute-by-minute achievements are so muddled that you're left with little to admire -- aside from a couple of performances, notably from Jeremy Irons as the building's overlord and Tom Hiddleston as a physician and the movie's main character. Working with gifted cinematographer Laurie Rose, Wheatley also cooks up some compelling images, forbiddingly modern interiors or a roof-top garden where a white horse roams. We also get lots of sex and violence among the building's tenants as they're forced to grapple with oh-so-metaphoric power outages. Playing a recent arrival to the building, a burdened Hiddleston provides the glue that holds the tumult together, even during a scene at a costume party in which everyone dresses as if auditioning for a movie about the excesses of Versailles. Watching High-Rise leaves us with little to do but long for a moment -- any moment -- that even half-resembles normalcy. Some will see the movie's massive display of chaos as a valid artistic choice: Others -- quite understandably -- may find themselves streaming toward the exits.

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