A Banquet: No Bite, No Substance
Dir. Ruth Paxton (2021)
A mom tries to help her daughter who has developed an eating disorder after a strange encounter at a party.
A Banquet, one of the dumber-named movies that I’ve ever encountered, is about as terrible as its name. The film, recently debuting for streaming on Shudder, is one of those films that I absolutely hate to watch: it’s stylish and looks like it should be way better than it actually is, but almost nothing happens during its entire runtime. The film is very well acted and beautifully shot, showing that at least the cast and cinematographer knew what they were doing, but the writing is terrible, the story is practically nonexistent, and the ending is narcissistic nonsense of the highest order.
One of several faces the actress makes to convey some meaning that we don’t ever get to understand.
The film is about a family who has recently lost the father to suicide and the horrifically bad coping skills of all involved. When the elder daughter attends a school party, she sees a blood moon in the distance and… follows it into the woods for some reason? There, she comes upon “something” that makes her almost completely unable to eat, and when she does eat even a single pea, she gags, chokes, and has a conniption fit. This eventually comes to be a complete removal from all forms of sustenance, where she stays in her room and her mother makes larger and larger quantities of food for the family members who aren’t all-of-a-sudden demonically anorexic. The disordered daughter begins to have visions of some strange event that will happen in the future, during which she mutters nonsense about stars and asks her family to just trust her because they’re part of the process. There’s some very real tension being created here, and there are a lot of ways this film could have been saved. It feels like Saint Maud without a purpose, and a movie that desperately needs an ending. It’s Take Shelter without the resolution, House of the Devil with no Devil. It’s Rosemary’s Baby without the fucking baby. Yeah, maybe she’s possessed. Maybe she’s some religious leader who will lead humanity into its future. Maybe she’s a moody teenager who’s making shit up for attention. The problem becomes: do we care? At all? Even a little? The answer, unfortunately, is no. Not that it matters anyway, because the questions that we bother to ask are never answered anyway. Look, the issue with this movie is entirely fixable. The actors do a damn fine job, and each part is played very believably by the cast member in that role. It’s a beautiful film, filled with dread and concern about what might happen next. The missing part, the part that’s fixable and is, ya know, quintessential to being able to have a damn movie in the first place? Absolutely nothing fucking happens. Besides one particularly gross scene, which turns out to be a dream, and the very ending of the movie which is completely unexplained and left up to the viewer’s uninformed imagination, the entire movie is a borefest with no rhyme or reason. If you like moody pieces where the ending leaves you in bewilderment, this film will be right up your alley. It isn’t mine, because I like good movies with discernible plots.
Seriously if they gave an Oscar for awkwardly staring at the camera, this chick wins hands down.
Who this film is for: Shudder completionists; Absolutely no one else; No, for real, absolutely no one else Bottom line: This film sucked. It was boring, incomprehensible, and a slog to get through. The acting is truly excellent, and all of these leading ladies have a bright future in the industry. Cinematographer David Liddell should get an award for struggling his best to make something out of absolutely nothing. The writer… needs to attend a workshop or something, I don’t know. Make a coherent story and you might have something, but three-quarters of an idea with no resolution is no way to go through life, son.