Movie Review: Ready or Not
A young bride agrees to play a family game to prove her love and commitment, but traditional belief systems are the central villain in this entertaining satire that articulates a millennial disdain for decadence and inherited privilege.
Ready or Not
Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell
Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett
Running time: 1 hr 35 mins
By Katherine Monk
Entering into the bonds of marriage can be a little terrifying, which explains why so many horror films revolve around the idea of a hidden past, and creepy family secrets that pop out of a dark corner on the big day. There’s still an element of doubt. After all, compared to family, it’s a relative stranger who we take as a spouse.
Ready or Not plays with this niggling queasiness of the unknown by teasing out all the tatted fears of matrimony, and lacing them into a stylish satire of the billionaire class. Beginning on a Cinderella note, we meet Grace (Samara Weaving) — a beautiful young bride who’s about to marry Alex (Mark O’Brien), the rich heir to an amusement empire. Grace grew up in foster care without a family, so even though Alex throws up a few red flags about his own clan and their strange traditions, she’s willing to go along to gain acceptance. She agrees to play a “family game.”
Ready or Not plays with this niggling queasiness of the unknown by teasing out all the tatted fears of matrimony, and lacing them into a stylish satire of the billionaire class.
That’s about all you need to know about the plot, since screenwriters Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murray have created a relatively straightforward design that obeys most of the genre rules, offering axe-wielding aunts with grim faces, kids with masks, and skeletons in the cellar.
Yet, they also manage to surprise by going for a whole other layer on top of the predictable chase and gore, which is why Ready or Not reminded me of Cabin in the Woods, Get Out or It Follows.
There’s a dark sense of humour that fuses with astute human observation, which means the actors have to find the magic friction point between camp and the last act of a Tennessee Williams play.
It’s not easy, but Samara Weaving (niece of Australian actor Hugo Weaving) makes it look effortless. Finding the doe-eyed gaze of a Mia Farrow one moment, and the steely glare of Arya Stark the next, she’s able to weaponize her innocence. Almost literally, which means this movie all about games is playing its own game inside the frame, without actually breaking it.
That’s because the actors are playing along, selling all the insanity with thespian precision, creating characters we care about, yet recognizing their part in the larger piece. They conjure a sense of family through the collective performance, and because the abstracts of family — and the strange burden of tradition — is what this movie skewers, the satirical subtext flows naturally, every so often pooling into pockets of deadpan comedy.
The actors are playing along, selling all the insanity with thespian precision… They conjure a sense of family through the collective performance, and because the abstracts of family — and the strange burden of tradition — is what this movie skewers, the satirical subtext flows naturally, every so often pooling into pockets of deadpan comedy.
Playing to the zeitgeist and a millennial disdain for decadence, the object of ridicule is the ruling class — masters and creators of the game who’ve made a dirty deal with the devil to keep their power.
Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett establish a tone a few notes brighter than Get Out as they use old Canadian mansions in Oshawa and Toronto for a rich, musty mood. They allow us to enjoy the dark comedy without guilt. This is a stuck up rich family with a phoney, coke-snorting sister and a frat-boy son-in-law. Dad (Henry Czerny) is a gutless loser who relies on money and status to solve his problems and mom (Andie MacDowell) is a wily opportunist.
Not even the alcoholic brother (Adam Brody) is all that alluring. They need redemption, and Grace may be the only capable of delivering.
She serves it up on a silver platter. With splatter. And we get the satisfaction of an extended roast, where the fat porkers in the one percent are forced to reckon for their sins. Smarter still, Ready or Not seeks out the root of that evil, and finds it in the box of the Everyman’s board game: the tradition of privilege that’s passed on from generation to generation like so much family silverware: tarnished by arrogance and yellowed by a constant fear of change, but still emblazoned with the family initials, silently demanding respect and obedience to the old ways.
THE EX-PRESS, August 24, 2019