Review by CJ
Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michelle Krusiec, Mike Doyle, Jordi Vilasuso, Jay Larson, Lindsay Burdge, John Carroll Lynch, Marieh Delfino
Will (Marshall-Green) is invited by ex-wife Eden (Blanchard) and her new husband David (Huisman) to a dinner party reunion. Also invited are friends of Will and Eden, who haven’t seen the couple since the death of their son over two years.
Will starts to notice that everything isn’t as it seems while the behaviour of the hosts and other guests gradually becomes more bizarre.
A friend recently told me they watched The Invitation based on its numerous positive reviews. They thought it was terrible and that I needed to watch it to confirm their thoughts. Initially I had no intention of watching it based on that enticing suggestion, reminiscent of “this tastes awful — would you like to try some?” However, while browsing through movie options, I saw The Invitation and my curiosity got the better of me. Much like the characters who attended Eden and David’s dinner party, I ended up wishing I had declined.
The Invitation is an incredibly slow thriller. I checked the time that the first “thrill” came into play and it was when there were about 20 minutes left in the film. That is to say during the first 80 minutes of the film, there was nada. There was mostly just a variety of tactics to show the gaslighting of the male lead from all angles — either intentional or well intended. The variety of tactics used to unsettle the main character should have added some tension or suspense for the viewers — adultery, drug use, murder confessions, nudity, obvious mental instability, and even an inappropriate film shown to the guests during a dinner party — but it all just seems bland. Even most of the characters’ reactions to these events seem unnatural. They debate the appropriateness of the behaviour then carry on with the night as though nothing happened.
There is also at least one major loose thread by the end of The Invitation where the fate of a character is left unclear. If this was how the film ended to leave it to the viewer’s imagination — similar to the ending of Inception — it would have been great. Instead a fairly big deal is made at the time about the ambiguity of the character’s fate and then never resolved.
Once the “thrilling” part of the thriller begins, The Invitation once again falls short. Everything happens quickly, quite messily and feels rushed. If you are going to try to pack all of the action in at the end of a film, there needs to be a steady build of tension. I don’t feel this is accomplished in the first 80 minutes of The Invitation so the last 19.5 minutes are just a garbled spree.
The only interesting part of The Invitation was the last 30 seconds. Not only because you know you’re nearly free, but because there is a genuinely interesting reveal at the end. Would it be worth sitting through the first 99 minutes and 30 seconds for? Not really, no.
The acting in The Invitation wasn’t particularly impressive. Stiff and bland might work for crackers but it doesn’t make a convincing character portrayal.
I wouldn’t waste your time with The Invitation unless you really enjoy an abundance of dull, slowly revealed backstory, vague character development and pensive yet bland moments in your thrillers.
“It’s okay, I’m not offended. A lot of people think we’re crazy. But I doubt they’re as happy as we are.”