By The Nerdling
Paranoia is a hell of a thing. Roped into an evening with his ex-wife and her new husband, Will (Logan Marshal-Green) keeps fighting the feeling that something is not right. Could it be because he is back inside the home he once happily shared with his former wife and their deceased son? Or is there something more sinister at play? That is the question The Invitation has you guessing at.
Will, along with his girlfiend, Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), attend a dinner party hosted by his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband, David (Michiel Huisman). In attendance are some old friends of the former married couple as well as some new friends of Eden and David’s. The newly married pair have recently returned from Mexico where they were living at the compound of the newest psychotherapy fad known as The Invitation. Eden seems quite at peace having coped with the accidental death of her and Will’s son some years prior. She champions the leader of The Invitation, Dr. Joseph’s (Toby Huss), and his teachings in allowing herself to move on with David.
Talk of old times and getting reacquainted eventually turn more and more towards The Invitation and its teachings. Suddenly the dinner takes on an air of recruitment. This is nothing new to the native Angelinos. They all have been to or hosted those dinners when someone has discovered something new and they want their friends to be a part of it. But something just seems different with Eden. Her smile is just a tad bit off. Her new husband’s friendliness doesn’t seem quite genuine. Their new friends don’t quite mesh with the old ones.
Or is Will projecting his anger and grief? Are the long-buried memories of his former life too much for him to handle?
I hesitate to call The Invitation a psychological thriller because that makes it sound like it is a fast-paced mind-bender. Karyn Kusama’s film is more of a paranoid, slow burn. The set lighting and pace of the film takes on a dream-like quality. Everything about it seems a tad off. All of the colors are muted, but certain elements jarringly stand out. The burgundy of the wine, the whiteness of Eden’s dress, the blue water in the pool, a red lamp. It all is just a little too tangible in the soft haze of low light.
What really drives the paranoia is the flashbacks to happier times between Will and Eden. The sharp change in his physical appearance allows the audience to entertain the idea Will’s resentment of Eden is the reason for the disquieting mood of the party.
Kusama’s paranoid thriller takes the dinner-party-from-hell subgenre and colors it beautifully with a film about grief and the lengths people will go to make themselves feel better. The Invitation will leave you feeling unsettled long after the dinner party ends.
The Invitation is available to stream on Netflix for free or rent on Amazon, VUDU, and YouTube.