It’s not a big surprise to see Tilda Swinton playing a David Bowie-esque rock star. The eccentric actress should have Ziggy Stardust as her personal theme song.
In A Bigger Splash, she plays rock diva Marianne, recovering from throat surgery and almost unable to produce a vocal sound. Swinton has a near-supernatural ability to project a glitter-glam personality without uttering a word.
More remarkable is Ralph Fiennes as her id-driven studio producer, mentor and former lover. This unwelcome visitor from the past has returned aiming to kick-start a reunion tour of their erotic glory days. Fiennes fires off aren’t-I-charming dialogue so fast you might forget that Swinton has gone silent.
That’s a major tonal shift as he boogies around her Mediterranean villa like a teenager on an aphrodisiac overdose. It’s complicated further by the turned-on teenager (girlfriend? daughter?) he brings with him, and the resentment felt by Matthias Schoenaerts as Swinton’s longtime flame.
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The often gentlemanly Fiennes clearly has a blast playing a revved-up sensualist, Swinton’s screen magnetism never dims, and Schoenaertssharply plays off both co-stars with a sensitive, lucid performance. It’s a solid-gold cast, yet the film feels less than bronze, maybe wooden.
‘A Bigger Splash’
Rated R for graphic nudity, some strong sexual content, language and brief drug use. In English and subtitled Italian. 2:05. Kentucky.