Nine days ago I mentioned that while I respect the learned dweeb mentality of Variety reviewer Guy Lodge, I don’t trust him that much. Not after his praising of Abbas Kiarostami‘s suffocating, mildly infuriating Certified Copy, and certainly not after giving a total pass to Paddington without at least mentioning that the story is ridiculous and wafer-thin. You also have to consider the native loyalty factor in any England-residing critic’s review of a British-made film, and particularly one directed and written by a youngish Brit — in this instance Alex Garland. All to say that Lodge has now reviewed Ex Machina. Read it carefully.
Ex Machina, says Lodge, is “a brittle, beautiful companion piece to Under the Skin and Her in its examination of what constitutes human and feminine identity — and whether those two concepts need always overlap — Garland’s long-anticipated directorial debut synthesizes a dizzy range of the writer’s philosophical preoccupations into a sleek, spare chamber piece: Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ redreamed as a 21st-century battle of the sexes. Exquisitely designed and electrically performed by Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson and particularly Oscar Isaac, this uncomplicated but subtly challenging film requires strong word-of-mouth from its January U.K. release (and its March SXSW premiere) if audiences abroad are to tap its porcelain surface.”
The code words and phrases give the game away — “porcelain,” “brittle,” “sleek,” “dizzy,” “requires strong word-of-mouth”…I think we all understand what’s going on here. Lodge wants to do well by Garland, whom he no doubt runs into at London parties from time to time, or at least be as respectful as he can without sounding overly chummy or invested. But the truth leaks outs.