Kinds of Kindness

Searchlight Pictures
Absurdist filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos teams up with his Poor Things muse, Emma Stone for Kinds of Kindness (2024) —a dark comedy anthology that boasts an ensemble of genre actors playing multiple roles across three segments. Stone is joined by Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, and more who switch personalities, wardrobes, hairstyles, and more, but one thing remains common: their ability to test their own limits.

The Lynchian nightmare is bound to garner some walkouts. For a movie named Kinds of Kindness, this anthology is far from kind to the viewers. The film might churn your insides a little if you can't stomach deadpan humor accompanied by unexpected nudity and violence. It's not for everyone, but Kinds of Kindness is bound to draw awkward chuckles from those who have an appetite for the twisted world that writers Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou set in three distinct but loosely connected stories.

Jesse Plemons gives his all. Kinds of Kindness reunites Yorgos Lanthimos with regular collaborators Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe. Both actors step into quintessentially Lanthimos-esque shadows with ease, but Jesse Plemons is the real revelation here. Be it his breakout role in Breaking Bad or his recent cameo in Civil War, Plemons has already proven how terrifying his screen presence can be. But Kinds of Kindness allows him to use that same straight-faced chillness for comic relief as well. Some of the funniest scenes in Kinds of Kindness can induce some guilt for the chuckling audience member, but one can't help but laugh at the misery and solitude of Plemon's characters. His Cannes-winning lead turn in the film goes on to prove his range as an unexpected dark comedy star. With Plemons already working on Lanthimos's next project, one can only speculate how far he would go this time.

Still from Kinds of Kindness (2024)

Exaggerated and yet so real. Coming to the overall plot, it's best to keep the darkly funny details under wraps. But expect broken characters discussing their everyday monotony with uncomfortable silences (barring Willem Dafoe, who is always ready with a Gollum-like grin). Expect recurring motifs, some of which don't go anywhere. Expect gags like a bunch of dogs driving a car right after a major plot twist…or Emma Stone just dancing to a track called "Brand New B**ch" after she has discovered a breakthrough for her cult (of course, there's a cult angle thrown in too). But despite the sudden and unexpected throwaways that adorn the anthology, Lanthimos seems to present it all with a sense of repressed authenticity.

The humor and darkness might seem to be ripped out of a David Lynch film guide, but the characters start feeling more real than surreal after a point. Much like the dysfunctional families in Wes Anderson's filmography, the largely unkind protagonists of Kinds of Kindness walk and talk with robotic mannerisms, but their troubles feel very much grounded in reality. For instance, the tendency to please is a recurring theme. Whether it's to please your corporate boss, your swinger husband, or your psychosexual cult leader, each situation presents our characters coming to terms with their own obsession, devotion, and potential self-destruction. On the surface, Kinds of Kindness can come off as a pretentious exercise in chaos with visuals offering nothing but shock value. But the more layers it peels, the more relatable it gets.

Clocking at 2 hours and 45 minutes, Kinds of Kindness could have flowed better with a trimmed-down runtime. However, Yorgos Lanthimos's dark fable makes up for its epic length with a perpetual sense of unpredictability, wildly shocking gags, cynically realistic character arcs, and an impressive lead performance by Jesse Plemons.

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