Dance break: Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones get down in ‘Fresh’.
FRESH *** (114 minutes) MA
Those sorry old sods – your humble reviewer included – who continually complain about the same-same nature of cinema as they wail for something different will have little to complain about the goods served up by Fresh, a hi-gloss exercise in bad taste that starts out like a standard studio rom-com, then goes off-piste and deep into some deliciously dark terrain.
It’s a pitch-black #metoo comedy thriller that’s sick, depraved & perverted – but in a fun way.
Proficiently directed by first timer Mimi Cave (working from a screenplay by Lauryn Kahn), Fresh unspools as an adventurous cross between an allegorical fable about modern-day misogyny and a good, old-fashioned slice of Grand Guignol cinema designed to test tolerances and delight in depravity.
The latest in a long line of attractive women who somehow find themselves alone, Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) finds herself desperate and dateless, but for the dorks she meets online.
While browsing the produce in a supermarket she happens upon Steve (Sebastian Stan), a wonderfully attractive, affable guy who proves himself a master at that good-looking goofball schtick some women find irresistable. It’s a premium meet-cute scenario any Reese Witherspoon rom-com would be proud to own.
Red-flagged by her lesbian friend Mollie (Jonica T. Gibbs) who is suspicious of his social media absence, Noa gets it on with Steve who seems to be the type of attentive dude she’s been looking for.
He plans to drive her to a special getaway in the country, but a brief delay sees her staying the night at his place, which is a tastefully furnished abode with a warm feel and a good distance from the suburbs.
It’s a solid 30 minutes before the film upshifts and Noa realizes she’s not in Kansas any more but deep inside Steve’s obsession with a peculiar culinary practice familiar to members of a certain Uruguayan rugby team whose plane has crashed landed in the snowy slopes of the Andes. And Hannibal Lecter.
Without letting things get too ridiculous, Cave does let things drift deep enough into the weird making you wonder what on earth is going on and where it’s going to go.
As with all good horror films, nonetheless, the narrative undergoes an inevitable course correction to let you know just what type of film Fresh is and how the horrific scenario is ultimately going to play out.
Still, that a goodly portion of the film places you in a state of pure puzzlement is admirable, however repulsive the activities on-screen get. Sensitive souls brave enough to front this film should be prepared to gag. It does get pretty revolting.
For the clever, sneaky manner in which it suffuses a raft of #metoo themes into the conventions of genre Fresh makes a delicious and worthy companion piece to Promising Young Woman, which did the same thing. Here’s hoping more such films are on the way.
To nutshell Fresh, think of David Lynch & David Cronenberg co-directing a cautionary tale about online dating as written by early Eli Roth, whose Hostel films are echoed herein.
Stan puts in a spirited performance opposite Edgar-Jones, who easily had the most difficult job a woman who hasd to try and charm her way out of a nightmare.
There’s some wily use of pop music and Gibbs gives solid support as the friend whose concern about her best buddy takes her into a world where catfishing has a wholly unpredictable agenda.
Disney+ from 4 March