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Kinds of Kindness is more than kinda offputting—but how gay is it?

Kinds of Kindness is more than kinda offputting—but how gay is it?

Margaret Qualley, Jesse Plemons and Willem Dafoe in KINDS OF KINDNESS.
Atsushi Nishijima (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

How many eggplants do Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone get for their third feature collaboration?

Welcome to How Gay Is It?Out’s review series where, using our state-of-the-art Eggplant Rating System, we determine just how queer some of pop culture's buzziest films and TV shows are! (Editor’s note: this review contains mild spoilers for Searchlight Pictures' Kinds of Kindness.)

Writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos and actress Emma Stone are back for their third feature collaboration, Kinds of Kindness. Their last collaboration, Poor Things, netted Stone her second Academy Award.

Normally we try to avoid going too much into the structure of a film in our reviews, but in the case of Kinds of Kindness, we’re going to commit an act of service by warning you in advance this isn’t a typical film. Instead of the usual three-act structure, Lanthimos presents us with a triptych of short films. Well… "short" is a misnomer, as they each run almost an hour a piece, putting the total runtime of the experience at a monstrous 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The stories are thematically tied together, and the cast tends to shuffle roles in each. In addition to Stone, the film stars Jesse Plemmons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Mamoudou Athie, Joe Alwyn, and Hunter Schafer. Plemmons is both horrifying and magnetic in his various roles. Dafoe is a careful balance of charming and psychotic when each are called for. As for Stone, the roles she plays call for some rather unnerving performances, and we don’t think they’re going to be netting her that third Oscar any time soon. The rest of the cast occupy limited screen time, but give admirable executions.

Hong Chau and Jesse Plemons in KINDS OF KINDNESS. Atsushi Nishijima (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

However we don’t know if any amount of acting power could save this film from itself. We’re fans of Lanthimos’s early work, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer in particular. In his latest film he continues to explore his obsession with choice and free will, but in increasingly grotesque ways. Themes that continue through the aforementioned as well as The Favourite and Poor Things. We don’t even mind the three story structure of the film, as it does feel almost Jim Jaramussch- or Wes Anderson-esque at times.

Yet some of the stories cross into such distasteful territory we found ourselves off put by the end. There are several less offensive mechanisms we could think of that would still have accomplished the same end.

For those new to the Lanthimosverse and coming in only off of Poor Things, be warned, this makes that film look like sunshine and daisies by comparison to some parts of this. The signature selective gore, macro lens, and dancing is certainly there, but it often feels stale instead of revolutionary.

Now for the question we at Out shine our light on: How gay is it?! Pansexual. Though we’re closer to panning the film than lauding it, this movie generally finds itself forging relationships across all sorts of characters. Some stories focus more heavily on the romantic and sexual elements than others, but it’s prevalent throughout.

Dafoe in particular gets the opportunity to showcase his chops. The actor (who director Lars Von Trier once declared in an interview with The Boston Phoenix while promoting Antichrist that Dafoe had to have a stunt penis because “Will’s own was too big” … “everybody got confused when they saw it”) shows off his late sexagenarian body unabashedly and repeatedly.

Emma Stone and Joe Alwyn in KINDS OF KINDNESS.Atsushi Nishijima (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures)

The film often feels like it’s flirting with being judgmental of the open sexual motivations of some of the characters, but then it’ll wildly swing the other way and celebrate them. Lanthimos feels unable to choose a perspective that fits. Which given his fascination with choice feels incongruous.

Overall Kinds of Kindness wasn’t for us. The offputting behavior escalates as the film goes on, and while we think this is an intentional journey Lanthimos is taking us on, that doesn’t mean we like it. As a film we give it a 2/5, though as for how gay it is: it’s a whopping 5 out of 5 Dafoe sized eggplants.

Kinds of Kindness is now playing in select theaters and will expand nationwide on Friday, June 28.

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Dana Han-Klein

Dana is a film fanatic, tenacious traveler, and interviewer of interesting individuals. She is also the host of the 'We're Watching What?!' podcast.

Dana is a film fanatic, tenacious traveler, and interviewer of interesting individuals. She is also the host of the 'We're Watching What?!' podcast.