THE MUJI MOVIE MINUTE: Dave Franco’s “The Rental” is a promising directorial debut that doesn’t quite stick the landing.
In “The Rental”, 2 couples rent a luxurious beach house for a weekend getaway that goes horribly wrong. Charlie (Dan Stevens) and his wife Michelle (Alison Brie) decide to celebrate his company’s success with Charlie’s coworker Mina (Sheila Vand) and her boyfriend Josh (Jeremy Allen White). Josh also happens to be Charlie’s brother. Quickly it becomes obvious that there is not only at least a little more than professional admiration between Charlie and Mina but that Michelle and Josh both notice and are each dealing with it in different ways. Josh, an underachiever compared to his older brother, is afraid that the beautiful and talented Mina will realize that she can do better and leave him, Michelle isn’t happy having to share so much of her husband but has learned to accept it. These complicated relationships wont be anything new to those familiar with co-writer Joe Swanberg’s previous work in the Mumblecore genre.
The strength of this movie comes from the performances and the relationship drama between the characters. The cast is great and is highlighted by Sheila Vand. Her character is more complicated than the normal final girl. She is smart, strong, and beautiful, but makes some very bad decisions as the film goes on. The movie also looks beautiful. Franco and cinematographer Christian Sprenger take full advantage of the giant beach house and beautiful location that it sets on.
Sadly, this is almost a tale of 2 movies. The first 2/3’s is mostly a relationship drama which works really well. It’s the last third of the movie where it turns into a slasher that it starts to faulter. We are clued in early that someone is watching the house from a distance, but we don’t know who. Unfortunately, once we get to the action it is not very rushed and not suspenseful. It almost seems like we are just going through the motions to get to the final scenes’ revelations (which I wont spoil here). The characters also make some irrational choices. I love slashers and can forgive a lot when it comes to dumb decisions, but they really start to pile up over the last 30 minutes of this movie. It’s a real shame that the excellent character build up that the movie achieves just isn’t capitalized on.
“The Rental” won’t make you afraid to book your next short-term rental but maybe it will make you at least be sure to lock your doors and windows. Dave Franco does show promise as a filmmaker even if this film’s final act feels like an afterthought.