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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

‘Saltburn,’ scandalous, sexy, startling

A man in a red robe stares out onto a messy yard. Barry Keoghan and Jacob Elordi play opposite each other in the disturbing film “Saltburn.” (Amazon Prime Video via AP)

“Saltburn” is like a “good for her” movie except there is no female lead, and it’s just Barry Keoghan playing another little freak with emotional problems. 

Directed by Emerald Fennell, “Saltburn” has been trending on TikTok in the weeks following its Nov. 17  theater release. Some users have shared their stunned reactions after watching the movie without knowing its plot or simply going for Jacob Elordi. These reactions from users are definitely expected or else you may watch way too many weird movies like me.

Some frequently talked about scenes have included Keoghan’s character, Oliver Quick, doing questionable things to a bathtub after someone used it and Keoghan doing even more questionable things to a grave. I felt like those scenes were pretty tame compared to the less-talked-about scene that included period blood. Even so, these scenes felt unnecessary. It relied too much on the shock factor of the moments than how much it added to the story.

Quick, an Oxford student on scholarship who becomes obsessed with his rich, eccentric classmate, Felix Catton (Elordi). Being sympathetic toward Quick’s family history, Catton invites him to his family’s estate, Saltburn, after Quick’s father dies. 

Quick slowly inserts himself into the Catton family by creating a web of manipulation and deception.

The film also stars Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Archie Madekwe and Alison Oliver in supporting roles as Felix’s family members.

Keoghan’s performance was great. His acting added unease to the film that no other actor could pull off. Playing similar characters in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”’ and “The Banshees of Inisherin,” he is made for a role like Quick. In the beginning of the film, he is able to portray himself as weak and awkward and progressively becomes more confident in his abilities to capture the attention of each member of the Catton family in his secret plan.

Pike’s performance was just as strong. Playing Catton’s condescending aristocratic mother Elspeth, Pike is a natural at playing a cold woman. When Pike’s character is first introduced to the audience, Quick is eavesdropping on the family and overhears Elspeth talk poorly about Quick’s class and family. Her demeanor changes when she realizes he heard and tries to save face by complimenting his eyes. If an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress came out of this for Pike, I would not be upset.

The film’s score was composed by Anthony Willis, who also created the score for Fennell’s previous movie, “Promising Young Woman.” The music added to the film’s storytelling and helped emphasize the feeling the characters felt in each scene. 

For example, to illustrate the difference between Quick’s class and the Catton’s, the music becomes somber and eerie. During a montage of Catton when Quick is perceived as being in love with him, the music is upbeat and alludes to feelings of affection.

The soundtrack for “Saltburn” needs to be commended as well. The film, set in 2006 and 2007, has the perfect songs to help immerse the audience in that era. “Perfect (Exceeder)” by Mason & Princess Superstar is heard playing during the massive birthday celebration the Catton’s hold for Quick at the estate. It is the perfect song to pair with a party full of spoiled rich people drinking and doing drugs without a care in the world. 

My favorite song featured had to be “Murder on the Dancefloor” by Sophie Ellis-Bextor. It’s the last scene of the film, and Quick is dancing naked throughout the halls of Saltburn as the song plays in the background. It perfectly juxtaposed the twist ending that was revealed in the previous scenes, and it really solidified my appreciation for this movie.

Like any other movie, “Saltburn” has its fair share of flaws. The film’s twist ending was very predictable after a pivotal moment rocks the Catton family. It was easy to put the pieces together from there, and it felt like a letdown, even though the ending was good.

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