Sunday, June 23, 2024

‘Ready or Not’ Doesn’t Hide Its Disdain for the 1%

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Ready or Not indicts not just the one percent but anyone who joins their ranks and betrays the masses. A scathing indictment of the upper class and immorality which is inherited from being so rich you are unbound by common everyday things like basic human empathy. Granted the filmmaker’s couch all of this in a deal with satan but honestly looking at the rich of today, it’s hardly a great leap.

The directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett have crafted a smart, tight, and lean satire which also doubles as a cathartic eruption of vengeance against a ruling class which has seemingly escaped any kind of repercussions either legally, socially, or financially. Ready or Not feels like a refreshing tonic in these troubled and bizarre end times we find ourselves in.

Grace (Samara Weaving) is marrying Alex Le Domas (Mark O’Brien). The Le Domases are an old-money family. The type whose wealth goes back generations long before tech booms and bull markets. Their fortune comes from games, board games, card games, or party games. Any game you play likely has the Le Domas name on it.

Like all rich people, they believe it is more than luck which has helped them to where they are. No, for the Le Domas, it is tenacity, skill, and the ability to do what is necessary to win; or so they believe. In fact what happened was their great-great-great grandfather met a man on his voyage over to the new world, a  Mr. La Bale. Mr. La Bale made a bet with Le Domas. He gave him a wooden puzzle box and if he solved it he’d finance any business venture Le Domas wanted once they reached the new country. 

We learn all of this along with Grace, on her wedding night. Her new father-in-law, Tony (Henry Czerny) regales them with the tale as he introduces the puzzle box in which she must choose the game they play. She draws a card, Hide and Seek. A game she soon learns involves her running for her life while her new in-laws hunt her down. It seems since she drew the card she must be sacrificed to Mr. La Bale by sunrise for the family’s continued success.

The script by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy wastes little time setting everything up. In fact, its short run time is part of what makes Ready or Not so joyous. A gory, darkly humorous, almost gleefully nihilistic satire such as it is it would start to creak and groan after a bit. Thankfully the script is also witty and never once attempts to make the Le Domas family redeemable.

Oh, Alex is the good son who supposedly ran away and only came back to marry Grace. But Alex’s mother, Becky (Andie McDowell) correctly wonders “Why?”. If he hates them so much and doesn’t believe in Mr. La Bale,  why would he come back and bring Grace along?

Betrayals, double-cross, and pragmatic bargains are struck, overturned, or ignored with each passing scene. Grace is shot, stabbed, and concussed, but through it all, she never once gives in. Even when she’s strapped on the pentagram about to be sacrificed, Grace never relents and even when she has the ability to save them lets the bastards burn where they stand.

Classism aside, Ready or Not also plays up the “final girl” trope. For those unfamiliar, the trope deals with how at the end of every horror movie it is usually a lone woman left standing. She is the one left to tell the story. Both the directors and the writers lean into that trope allowing Grace to not only survive but choose to take a stand.

Ready or Not is one of the more wickedly funny movies I’ve seen in a while. When Grace tries to escape the grounds she is caught by one of the kids. She begs him to let her go and he shoots her in the hand. Her response is to punch him in the face and knock him out. At that moment I nominated her for best Disney Princess.

Weaving’s Grace is a hero for our modern “worst timeline” times. All she wants is to settle down with her new husband and live in the lap of luxury. By the end, no one is spared her wrath, nor should they be, and she lets it all burn to the ground. Comic book movies spend a lot of time and money trying to give us “heroes” and hardly one of them has done anything as gutsy and heroic as taking out a family of rich amoral pricks who made a deal with the devil.

It helps that Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillet populate Ready or Not with a cast of characters so woefully bereft of empathy we actively root against them and for Weaving’s Grace. Czerny is a character actor who often played a teeth-gnashing heel during the nineties. In those days it seemed it was either him, Gary Cole, or Christopher McDonald. As the Le Domas patriarch, Czerny snarls and shakes his fist with years of practiced aplomb.

McDowell, also a staple of the nineties, is given a chance to play against her stereotypical role of blue-collar everywoman for whom the main character fell in love with. Becky is a cool, pragmatic devious woman who has clearly earned her role as the Le Domas matriarch. Torn between her loyalty to her family and the truly novel feeling of actually liking the woman her son brought home. She walks a fine line in making us love her because of her wonderful down to earth McDowell-ness only to remind us that looks can be deceiving.

But they pale in comparison to Melanie Scrofano’s Emilie. A coked-up, shallow, party girl who is desperately trying to impress her daddy only to reveal a startling aptitude for violence… just but with a horrible aim. Scrofano’s performance mixes physical comedy, a dash of sincerity, and a sprinkle of arrogant narcissism resulting in a blast of a character who lights up every scene she’s in.

Holding it all together is Weaving. Her Grace is not the stereotypical “female badass”. She doesn’t know how to hold a gun and trusts all the wrong people. But unlike Papa Le Domas, she is tenacious, she comes out in the end.

Brett Jutkiewicz shoots Ready or Not as if it was an old-timey Gothic tale. Candelabras and dimly lit servant hallways shroud the Le Domas abode in an eerie cloud of sinister entitlement. Jutkiewicz loves lingering on aspects of Grace as opposed to other characters. The camera lingers on her yellow tennis shoes clashing with her torn wedding dress the practical versus the ideal fantasy.

Even the last line is the type of frothy perfection most big studio fares botch. Ready or Not is a straightforward movie. There are no twists per se, though the movie does have a slight air of unpredictability about it. But overall it’s just so breezy, biting, and fun, it’s hard to find any real fault with any of it. It doesn’t support eating the rich but it does support using them as fertilizer. 

Images courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

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