So I’ve been seeing this trailer pop up every so often, and it’s really pushing how the audience should be paying attention to its lead actress. Can’t speak for her myself, but the movie does, admittedly, look pretty intense for a period drama. From what I can gather, it’s about this housewife, married to a wealthy man she doesn’t love, and is constantly mistreated by the men surrounding her. She winds up falling for a stable-boy and their affair becomes the subject of a lot suspicion that ultimately leads to a dramatic confrontation. Hmm… now that I’ve written that out, it sounds pretty cliché and the one trailer probably gave away way too much. Here’s to hoping that the details are what will make the movie good.
Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have the “star in-the-making” herself, Florence Pugh, a fresh-faced English actress known for roles that I’ve never heard of, making this her big break. Congrats, miss. We also have Cosmo Jarvis and Paul Hilton, both known for unknown roles, Naomi Ackie was in an episode of TV show DOCTOR WHO, and frequent video game voice actor Christopher Fairbank, known for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014), ALIEN 3 (1992), and Tim Burton’s BATMAN (1989).
Now for the crew. Directing is William Oldroyd, known for unknown projects. Penning the screenplay is Alice Birch, making her writing feature debut. Congrats, miss. Composing the score is Dan Jones, known for SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000). Finally, the cinematographer is Ari Wegner, known for short films and documentaries.
By the way… is this movie based on a novel? Hmm. Overall, this might be alright. Probably won’t be up my alley, being an English period film, but I’m always down for a good story to make up for uninteresting subject matter.
This is my honest opinion of: LADY MACBETH
Set in England, circa 1865. Katherine (Florence Pugh) is bought into a loveless marriage to a wealthy family, her older husband Alexander (Paul Hilton) and his equally unbearable father, Boris (Christopher Fairbank). She is to maintain certain unreasonable duties as a wife, which makes her feel trapped and repressed, and the constant verbal and emotional abuse doesn’t help. Thankfully, both Alexander and Boris leave the estate for business reasons, leaving Katherine to her own devices. She eventually strikes up a sexual relationship with one of the workers on the land, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). Soon begins a complex romance to maintain their relationship while dealing with the men who are above her.
Oh my god! Yes! Yes, a thousand kinds of yes! Don’t let those trailers fool you. This is a delightfully twisted little movie.
Before I get into the review itself, it might be a good point to mention that this movie has nothing to do with William Shakespeare. It’s based on a Russian novel called Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Lenskov in 1865. It’s not even some kind of origin story or anything. As I’ve not actually read the book, I can’t comment on the… comment that I’m about to make, nor am I overly familiar with Macbeth as a story, but if I were to guess, it incorporates themes from the character in the play and makes it his own character. Or maybe that’s not it at all and I have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s probably that.
This might end up being a fairly short review as there isn’t that much to say about it. But what there is to say, anyone can rave and rave. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do! This movie is basically about this woman who is in a loveless marriage, becomes sexually repressed, and starts fucking one dude relentlessly and spends the rest of the movie manipulating and killing people so she can keep fucking her boy toy. From the opening scene, you wouldn’t guess the movie would be that awesome. In fact, it kind of starts off… maybe “boring” isn’t the right word, but the tone definitely takes a shift at some point in the story.
It starts off about how you’d expect this movie to start off. She’s in her loveless marriage, forced to strip so her disinterested older husband can literally just jerk off to her while she’s facing the wall and told to act in a certain way by her father-in-law, who is equally disinterested in her. So then they both leave on business and Katherine finds her Alexander’s employees suspending Anna (Naomi Ackie), her closest housemaid, in an outhouse, getting… I’m not entirely sure… sexually assaulted? She’s naked and all, but no one’s raping her. They’re just… treating her like an animal. She demands Anna be let down but… for some reason finds the leader of this barbaric group attractive, even when he’s incredibly shameless toward her about it and she’s supposed to be treated as their master. Then, get this, later that night, he practically stalks her outside of her bedroom and forces his way into her room, despite resistance. You can probably guess what happens next. She totally goes for it and they have sex.
“Wait, what?” You may ask. This guy makes an obvious attempt to rape her… but it’s not a rape scene. She just accepts the situation and the two have consensual sex. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie. Totally bonkers.
Oh my god, it gets even worse. So Alexander suddenly comes home, hides Sebastian in her closet, and Alexander suspects that Katherine has been cheating on him, calling her names and all that abusive jazz. Finally at her breaking point of the belittlement, she nonchalantly and quietly walks toward that closet, pulls out Sebastian, throws him onto the bed, mounts him, and starts riding him right in front of Alexander without saying a word.
After Alexander watches this insanity unfold in front of him, this naturally results in a fist fight between him and Sebastian… resulting in Katherine knocking Alexander to the ground and beating the shit out of his head with a statue. Obviously, this kills him. By this point, Katherine’s also murdered her father-in-law via poison, which traumatized poor Anna into becoming a mute, and Katherine uses that to her advantage to have her affair with Sebastian in front of her and she won’t say a single thing about it.
And it doesn’t stop. In a blatantly obvious ploy to hurl an extra forty minutes into the movie, we learn that Alexander had an affair and conceived a child with her, and then comes under Katherine’s care. At first, you think, “Aww, she’s bonding with him.” But then, not only do we learn that Katherine is preggers with Sebastian’s baby, but… details barely important, she realizes that in order for their affair to continue, they need to get rid of the boy, Teddy (Anton Palmer), and his grandmother. Yes, in order for Katherine to get porked by her man, she needs to kill a five year old kid. Which she does.
But wait! The depravity doesn’t end there! Sebastian hides in the nearby woods to wait for Katherine to spin a story. However, the doctor who checks up on Teddy doesn’t believe her cover story. As if on cue, Sebastian comes in racked with guilt and confesses everything to everyone in the room. But then… it happens. Katherine turns his truth against him and claims that all the deaths were Sebastian’s fault and he had help from Anna, who is still mute from trauma. But because Anna can’t speak up, and Katherine is the official “lady of the house” and therefore has status above her victims, her word is taken over his, and both Sebastian and Anna get hauled away, presumably to get executed for their “crimes.” The final shot is just a close-up of Katherine, alone in her house… with her unborn baby.
Fuck, that’s going to be a messed up kid.
Okay, so it wasn’t that short a review.
Lesson for the day kiddies, do not underestimate the power of lady-boners! The high praise for this flick is warranted, but I do recommend going in with a certain mindset. If you go into this with the expectation of watching some sort of high-society story full of hoity toity sophisticated storytelling, ehhh dial it down a few notches. This is a trashy flick, but it’s such delightful trash. Is all the hype for miss Pugh warranted? Oh, shit yeah. Usually, I get annoyed with roles like this: debuts featuring gratuitous nudity and sex to show how brave and edgy the actress can be. Having said that, this was a fun role that had a lot of sick bad-assery thrown in. She’s great and I look forward to seeing her in more pictures in the future. I do recommend this movie purely for the “what the fuck” factor. If that sounds like your thing, you’ll have a blast watching this.
My honest rating for LADY MACBETH: 5/5