The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

The Student Newspaper of Jackson-Reed High School

The Beacon

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Saltburn: a look at the British elite and internet overhyping

Rating: 7/10

“Saltburn” is a beautifully shot and expertly acted tale of homoeroticism and manipulation. Unfortunately, it’s bogged down by a murky message and overhyping across social media.

The movie follows Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), a poor, friendless student at Oxford University who develops a very close friendship with fellow student Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). Felix is attractive, charismatic, and most importantly, rich. When he finds out that Oliver has nowhere to go for the summer, Felix insists that Oliver come to his family’s castle, Saltburn. There, Oliver’s crush on Felix turns into a full-blown obsession as he meets and slowly manipulates Felix’s family through seduction, gossip, and blatant lies, turning the Cattons on each other and finding his place within upper-crust British society.

Keoghan makes for a perfect leading man, embracing the awkward yet scheming nature of the character. Elordi excellently tows the line between charisma and self-righteousness, forcing the audience to fall in love with him. The two have incredible chemistry throughout, establishing a believable relationship. Additionally, Rosamund Pike, who played Felix’s mother, Elsbeth, was a standout, bringing a delightfully detached and self-interested performance.

The direction and cinematography were an absolute standout in the film. The framing was intentional, the lighting was effective, and the entire movie felt otherworldly; it felt like the viewer was seeing everything through Oliver’s eyes. Writer and director Emerald Fennell perfectly captured a dreamlike-yet-grounded feel that transported the viewer into this posh world of elitism and parties.

Fennell’s writing skillfully brings all of the characters to life. Mainly a character-driven piece, “Saltburn” relies on and delivers strong dialogue and character dynamics, which is effectively carried out by the witty and dark writing throughout. Dry, dark humor lures the audience into a sense of false security as the movie’s various twists and turns unfold. 

As you’ve probably seen across social media, “Saltburn” has a few scenes that have gone incredibly viral for their graphic sexual content, pulling many to check out the movie just to experience these scenes for themselves. However, many have left disappointed, expecting more, with these overhyped moments of gratuity being contained to a few key scenes.

The limited nature of these scenes is what makes them all the more effective in the movie’s storytelling. They are carefully placed to capture emotional climaxes and demonstrate different peaks in Oliver’s emotional state, serving more than just a viral moment for people to react to on TikTok.

Additionally, these scenes are another example of how Fennell is able to pull the audience in and make the movie all the more real; the shock felt during these moments makes them resonate and makes the characters all the more relatable (and hate-able). 

Unfortunately, I left the theater somewhat confused. I couldn’t tell if by the end of it I was supposed to sympathize with the rich characters, or if it was an “eat-the-rich” movie in the vein of “The Menu,” “Knives Out,” or “Ready or Not.” Throughout “Saltburn,” aspects of this trope were played into to misdirect the audience, but its implications left me confused.

Complicating this even further is the fact that the writer/director herself is from the upper echelons of British society–was she trying to garner sympathy? Or was she trying to expose how calculating and cruel the British elite can be? 

While viewers may not leave knowing how they are supposed to feel about insanely rich British people, they are certainly in for a beautiful, entertaining, and thrilling ride.

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About the Contributor
Simon Holland
Simon Holland, Editor-in-Chief
Simon is one of two Editors-in-Chief, and if you start talking to him about RuPaul’s Drag Race, you’ll never escape that conversation. During the day, Simon can be found holed up in a corner of the library cranking through all his editing in one sitting, and after school, there’s a 99.9% chance he’s in the Black Box Theater, wishing he could see the sun.  
  • 2022-23: Style Editor
  • 2023-24: Editor-in-Chief
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