The Invitation: Slow, Brooding & Occasionally Elegant Psychological Thriller
Let it be known that Karyn Kusama’s latest psychological thriller, a slow-burner that dwells in an abundance of ambiguity and tension, is probably not for everyone. Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, The Invitation is packaged as a wonderful – and deeply profound – exercise of human emotion which takes a while to get going, but once it begins to reveal its true intentions, it turns into an intense and a gripping chiller which is hard to shake off.
The story is relatively simple; Will (played by the exceptional Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Corinealdi) have been invited for a dinner party by Will ex-wife, Eden (Blanchard), and her new husband David (Huisman). They’re joined by a group of old friends and it seems like everyone’s in it for a good night of food and conversation, though Will seemingly can’t escape the memories of the incident that led to his and Eden’s divorce – the death of their young son.
We learn that after being gone for almost two years, Eden and David have returned from Mexico, rested and spiritually cleansed, having met at a grief support group. As the evening progresses however, Will becomes increasingly convinced that there is something seriously off.
Engulfed by an uncomfortable sense of unease and discomfort, The Invitation spends most of its time at the dinner party where a group of friends – old and new – are given the chance to talk and reconnect after years apart. Taking the time to introduce characters, reveal back stories and allow for the audience to connect with the characters, Kusama – see Girlfight, Aeon Flux – brings forth a palpable amount of tension into the mix and although The Invitation is one exceptionally slow picture, the payoff – once all of the layers are peeled off – is definitely worth the wait.
The performances from all involved are superb, allowing the audience to fully immerse themselves in the set-up through the characters’ interactions, all while a hidden undertone of paranoia lingers on. Though his physical similarities to Tom Hardy are difficult to ignore, Marshall-Green is absolutely superb as a man trying to deal with personal loss. Infusing his character with a credible amount of pain, sorrow and grief, it’s a powerful and a compelling performance; an element that keeps story slow pace engaging. It’s slow, sure, but a must-see psychological thriller all the same.