Not having read J. G. Ballard's novel "High-Rise" about a dystopian society, written in 1975, I obviously cannot comment on director Ben Wheatley's adaptation in relation to the author's work. Ballard enjoyed a prominent career in post-modern literature, and I believe in 1975, "High-Rise" the novel would have elicited the proper amount of shock and awe.
However, in 2016, Wheatley's treatment of the "Ballardian" ---- an adjective coined by the Collins English Dictionary --- confines of Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston), and a varied assortment of residents, comes off as nothing more than a contrived indictment of a potpourri of social ills. Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film, "A Clockwork Orange", was equally disturbing with a distinct amount of shock value. I loathed Kubrick's film as much as "High-Rise".
We've seen this reprehensible behavior before --- there is nothing new in "High-Rise". The building itself looks more like a tenement than the "luxurious" apartment residence as it is billed. Drugs, alcohol, sexual orgies, suicide and hallways full of trash --- all thrown together with the British class system --- do not provide any specter of entertainment.
Despite the fact that Wheatley has assembled an impressive cast, along with Hiddleston, including Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss and Luke Evans, "High-Rise" is a wretched mess. The human behavior in "High-Rise" is beyond gross. At one point I began to hallucinate about the smells putrifying the interiors of this building, and came close to being ill.
The screenplay by Amy Jump is laborious and at times tedious. Her attempts at humor fail miserably. In one truly ludicrous scene, Laing is invited to a soiree at Royal's (Irons) penthouse. No one informed him that it was a costume affair, and he arrives in a suit with a cheap bottle of Riesling. Everyone laughs --- except the audience.
The ultimate disgust with "High-Rise" concerns the horrific treatment of the many animals in the movie. Seriously, do what you want with these despicable residents, but devouring dogs and horses is not an avenue which should be traveled.
"High-Rise", much like "A Clockwork Orange", will attract multiple voyeurs because of its blatant pornographic viciousness. It is not amusing --- it is, however, trivial, mundane and senseless. "High-Rise" is a pretentious slog!
Opinion: Huge Don't Bother
One perk of sitting in critics' row for a screening is that it minimizes the amount of talking around you. Another advantage is it's easy to count the number of people who walk out of the theater before the end of a film. In the case of "High-Rise", I noted four couples leaving early. I assume the rest of the 100 or so attendees were waiting around for some kind of payoff. It never happened.
"High-Rise" is a puzzling debacle of debauchery that is showcased on many levels. Mysogeny, animal cruelty, murder, sexual orgies, brutal violence --- a suicide thrown in for good measure --- are all on ugly display. If this constitutes entertainment at the movies, count me out. Moviegoers easily offended by implicitly overt sex acts and full frontal nudity, take heed. If the slow-motion death of a man who jumps from 39 stories onto the hood of a car sounds horrifying, look away.
But the biggest enigma is why four well-known, talented actors --- Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller and Elisabeth Moss --- agreed to be in the film. From the limited pre-movie hype, Jeanne and I were expecting a mystery thriller involving one Dr. Robert Laing (Hiddleston). As a new tenant in an exclusive building, he appears to be a normal human being plying his trade as a physiologist. That includes peeling back the face of a head which was recently removed from its cadaver. Yes, the shock value in "High-Rise" appears to be intentional.
The premise of "High-Rise", which pits lower class tenants against wealthier ones, is not clearly defined in the movie. For one thing, they all party together and seem to get along, until basic amenities start going haywire in architect Royal's (Irons) building. Then all hell breaks loose, and in the ensuing chaos, Dr. Laing joins the insanity, even having sex with the pregnant wife (Moss) of the building's loose cannon, the aptly named Richard Wilder (Luke Evans).
This film is based on a novel by the late J. G. Ballard, who also wrote a book called "Crash" which was made into a movie in 1996 --- not, however, the "Crash" of 2004 that won Best Picture. Ballard's "Crash" was rated with the rare NC-17 tag because of his bizarre story involving automobile smash-ups and sexual activity. Amy Jump, who penned the screenplay for "High-Rise", was actually nominated for a writing award in 2015 by the British Independent Film Awards. Go figure.
Some movies defy explanation. "High-Rise" is one of them.
Opinion: Don't Bother!