Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett
Written by: Gary Busick and R. Christopher Murphy
Starring: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell
I’m smiling as I try to figure out how to start this review of “Ready or Not.”
I’m smiling because, for a film that runs a scant 95 minutes, “Ready or Not” packs an unexpected punch to the gut in the most glorious way possible.
I’m smiling because Samara Weaving is a national treasure. And as the beautiful bride-to-be, Grace, she radiates beauty. Her approach and attitude towards her future husband, Daniel (Adam Brody) and his family, who co-incdentally appear to not like her is non-plussed: she is determined to get married.
I’m smiling because the antics that follow their gorgeous wedding are so mind-bendingly hilarious and gruesome that it became cathartic. Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett used their comedy-horror story, written by Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy, to tell a parable of treachery, deceit, and ironically, about the reaches to which the wealthy protect their wealth.
At the head of the proverbial table is Tony Le Domas (Henry Czerny), a charismatic patriarch who dotes on his son, and looks at his future daughter-in-law cross-eyed. His wife, Becky (Andie MacDowell) is also a gem in this story as someone who can relate to the trials that Grace must face. As Alex, Mark O’Brien struck me as the audience being able to peer into a world that we don’t normally get to associate with and a world that we also look upon with disdain specifically because of the wealth and power the family wields.
As the bride is escorted down the aisle, the camera focuses on Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni) and her severe facial expression. I couldn’t help but burst out laughing at seeing the character. The stare, the make-up, the hair color it was perfection. And, as the polar opposite of Alex, we have an inkling of what’s in store for us. The other characters were all like kids in a candy store – “we can’t wait to share our surprise with you” as Grace is told about the game she must play with the family.
The idea of how Bettinelli-Olpin and Gillett go about introducing the game and the rules surrounding it was brilliant because it plays right into the family’s “kid in a candy store” routine while strengthening Grace’s position. The film wears its juxtaposition, from ‘ready or not’ to ‘hide and seek,’ on its sleeve and proudly so.
Within that juxtaposition are hints of stories past, “Clue” and “Murder by Death”; comedies that feature rich characters and the shenanigans to go with them. As with “Ready or Not,” both have a rich air about them, set in a medieval homes with clues to get our lead character through the maze before time runs out. Grace is also the epitome of her namesake as she takes in each event with the grace of someone who is used to having to claw her way through life. She reminded me very much of Uma Thurman’s The Bride – never underestimate the prepared.
There is a twist to “Ready or Not” that builds on what has come before that served the film well. Some might be appalled at the horror. Some might not laugh at the dark humor that permeates the story from the opening frame to the closing. The parallels the film draws to real life are the true treasure trove to be carved out of this story.
3.5 out of 4 stars