Movie review: "A Bigger Splash" is a grown-up soap opera with two great leads

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive
"A Bigger Splash"

If movies like "A Bigger Splash" or the (terrible) Angelina Jolie-Brad Pitt vehicle "By the Sea" have taught me anything, it's that rich, bored people live in a real-life soap opera.

Granted, that soap opera is far more entertaining in "A Bigger Splash," thanks to casting a couple of the great actors of our time, but it's still a trashy beach novel at its core.

Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is a rock star recovering from vocal surgery while on vacation with her partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). Their stay in a friend's glorious Italian pad takes a turn with the visit of an old acquaintance.

Harry (Ralph Fiennes) shows up like a hurricane of boisterous energy with his grown daughter (Dakota Johnson) in tow. His appearance sparks a wave of nostalgia that soon gives way to tension among the group.

Director Luca Guadagnino, who last teamed with Swinton on "I Am Love," has great visual flair for this tale of how the other half (or, more accurately, the one percent) lives. The problem here as that his soap opera twists of sexual tension are either the kind you see a mile coming, or the kind that come out of nowhere (including logic).

You're better off sitting back and watching two great actors at work, although the divine Swinton spends most of the film playing a character who can't speak. Fiennes more than makes up for this in a performance full of pure vigor.

Johnson and Schoenaerts have the near-impossible task of holding their own, and while their efforts are noble, they make the casting seem lopsided. Still, if you want a pulpy art-house flick, this will make a splash.

"A Bigger Splash"

Opens Friday

2 1/2 stars out of 4