The Invitation

A couple months ago, someone on Stardust asked me who my favorite female filmmaker was. And I had no answer. Sure, I could name ladies who made one or two movies I enjoyed, but I wanted to be able to name someone with a fairly long resume. The obvious answers are Sophia Coppola (respect, but not always my style), Kathryn Bigelow (too obvious and do I really know much about her work?), and Greta Gerwig (too green, also not my style). It killed me that I didn’t have a real answer and I’ve been trying to find one ever since.

A new challenger enters the ring: Karyn Kusama. I first heard her name a few weeks ago when she’d been tapped to direct a new Dracula movie. The main credit being listed in all the news was Jennifer’s Body. Okay, I can get behind this. Within a day or two of this news breaking, I sat mere feet away from her at Alamo Drafthouse when she introduced Near Dark. I even passed her in the hall after, but didn’t really have enough of an opinion on her to poke her for a selfie or pay her a compliment, and the event soon left my mind.

I posted about watching Girlfight the other day, which I really enjoyed. I’d remembered it was the directorial debut of a female director, so I looked her up. Karyn Kusama. Alrighty now, time to audition her as a potential favorite female filmmaker. I looked thru her credits. Destroyer. Also really good, and incidentally another time I stood merely feet away from her (because of that special screening my buddy and I stumbled into). She also made Aeonflux, which I hadn’t cared for at first, but I ordered the DVD to give it a second chance. If nothing else respect for the genre switch. And then there was this film that I saw was available on Netflix: The Invitation.

I don’t typically watch a lot of movies on Netflix, and even now I’m trying to focus on revisiting things on my movie wall. This warranted an exception, and when I saw that Logan Marshall-Green led the cast, it was a done deal.

Marshall-Green and his girlfriend are invited to the home of his ex-wife and her new boyfriend for a dinner party. No one has seen the couple in two years and this invitation is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Something just doesn’t feel right about it, and no one can put their finger on why.

That’s about all I daresay about the plot. It unfolds in a way that makes you question your own sanity. Is there something sinister going on? Is it all in Logan’s head? Surely, everything is okay right? No this can’t possibly be okay? But has anything bad actually happened yet? Is something bad going to happen? It’s a very slow burn, and a mostly satisfying one at that. I didn’t like how the actual story and motives of it played out, but I loved how it did.

Kusama proves herself as a filmmaker and a master of suspense. She uses very subtle foreshadowing to build the tension. Subtle enough to make you question if things mean what you think they mean or if you’re imagining things, and she prolongs it until the last possible moment. It’s unsettling and it’s masterful. I only wish the writing and the why’s behind it all were more satisfying. I will say the final thirty seconds were absolutely delicious (although I saw a few Stardust posts that disagreed with me on that point). So yes, I think we do have a legit contender for my favorite female filmmaker. At least I have someone I can answer now.