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The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

The Student News Site of Menlo School

The Coat of Arms

“Saltburn” Review: All That Glitters Isn’t Gold

Staff illustration: Amber More

Beautiful and shallow. These words describe the Catton family of “Saltburn” just as well as the film itself. Director-writer Emerald Fennell has taken the world by storm with her hit thriller comedy “Saltburn,” and for good reason. Each and every shot is an absolute feast for the senses, though the plot keeps the film just short of a masterpiece. 

Let’s start with all there is to love, because there’s a lot. The film has a unique aesthetic I’d never seen before: 2000s indie sleaze surprisingly harmonizes with English decadence and the slowness of life in the countryside. Aesthetically speaking, Saltburn is the perfect blend of “Skins,” “The Favourite” and “Call Me By Your Name.”

The movie’s edgy 2000s feel is rooted in a soundtrack of nostalgia. With alternative staples like MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” and dance-inducing synth pop beats like Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder On The Dancefloor,” Saltburn’s soundtrack is nothing short of transformative. 

But no period piece is complete without the right wardrobe. Costume designer Sophie Canale — most known for her work with the hit Netflix original series “Bridgerton” — used oversized rugby shirts and colored Ray-Bans to hint at the era. Canale kept things authentic by turning to Depop — the internet’s favorite online thrift shop — for the casual attire, costuming the cast in clothing actually bought and worn during the 2000s. The real standout outfits from the film, however, were featured at the protagonist Oliver’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” themed birthday party. The looks encapsulate the glamor of descending into madness almost as well as Shakespeare himself. 

But what could perhaps be the most aesthetically pleasing aspect of the film is the cast. If you’re still wondering whether “Saltburn” is worth the watch, the 6 foot 5 inches, chiseled and tan Jacob Elordi as Felix Catton should be able to convince you. And the cast isn’t just attractive — it’s also packed with talent. Barry Keoghan’s performance as Oliver is so compelling that I truly questioned his sanity. Rosamund Pike as Elspeth Catton, known for her role as Amy Dunne in “Gone Girl,” is another standout. Pike has clearly mastered the skill of getting the audience to root for a morally questionable character. 

For all these reasons, I wanted, so badly, to fall in love with this movie, but I just can’t call it perfect. After all the online hype, I went into “Saltburn” ready for my mind to be blown. Sure, several scenes left my jaw unlocked and skin crawling, but the shock was rooted in the explicitness, not good writing. Particularly the infamous bath scene. You know, the one where… 

Nevermind. This is a high school publication, after all. Back to the analysis. 

Saltburn’s plot starts strong but falls hard. The pacing of the first hour is both engaging and immersive, but the second hour becomes far too chaotic and jumpy, cramming in major developments left and right. The final twist was a bit anticlimactic, especially compared to Fennel’s award-winning “Promising Young Woman.” I won’t spoil too much, but, at the end of “Saltburn,” Oliver does exactly what you’re expecting he will once you’re about halfway in. Though all the ominous hints throughout the movie suggest the reveal of some grand conspiracy much larger than the desires of one man, Oliver’s revealed motive is pretty basic. 

A quote from the director explains why the ending, while maybe exciting on paper, falls flat. Fellen explained in an interview with Backstage that a hint at Felix’s doppelganger early in the film was merely an attempt to add to the ominous vibe. “Ominous vibes” are only compelling because the audience is expecting something big to come. When nothing comes, it’s just disappointing. I still have so many questions left unanswered, even with the two hour running time.

Still, “Saltburn” has set a stunning standard for 2000s period pieces. Hopefully there’ll be more to come, now that the end of the 00’s was 14 years ago. The film is certainly worth a watch. Just not with your parents!

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About the Contributor
Tatum Herrin
Tatum Herrin, Editor in Chief

Number of years in The Coat of Arms: 4

Favorite aspect of journalism: Designing pages

Interests outside of school: Mock trial and lacrosse

Class of 2024

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