Susan Granger’s review of “A Bigger Splash” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
After rock superstar Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) undergoes vocal-cord surgery and is forbidden to talk during the healing process, she and her younger filmmaker lover, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), hide away in an idyllic villa on Pantelleria, a volcanic island on the strait of Sicily, not far from Tunisia.
They’re first glimpsed blissfully sun-bathing naked by the tiled pool. Suddenly, a mutual friend, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), arrives unexpectedly, along with his newly-discovered, nubile daughter, Penny (Dakota Johnson). Harry’s an ebullient, often obnoxious music producer who was once Marianne’s lover and introduced her to Paul.
Now, he’s determined to reclaim her affections, disruptively insisting they dine at a quaint, picturesque restaurant known only to locals but overcrowded due to the upcoming Feast of San Gennaro.
As the dynamic backstory of this steamy foursome is gradually revealed through inference and innuendo in flashbacks, they sexually tease and deviously torment one another, casually indulging in wanton coupling and full-frontal nudity.
Loosely based on Jacques Deray’s “La Piscine” (“The Swimming Pool”), the erotic melodrama has been adapted by David Kajganich, who injects a tenuous subplot about illegal Tunisian immigrants.
It’s subtly directed by Luca Guadagnino (“I Am Love”), who meticulously delineates each of the four characters, utilizing Marianne’s inability to speak as a metaphor for repressed emotions and guilty secrets.
Tilda Swinton’s angular, androgynous beauty is amplified by her haughty demeanor and languid, Euro-chic attire – in stark contrast with Lolita-like Dakota Johnson’s see-through tops and sultry shorts.
Handsome Matthias Schoenaerts is suitably disdainful, as uninhibited Ralph Fiennes steals the show with an impromptu dance to the Rolling Stones’ “Emotional Rescue.”
FYI: Implying some great emotional moment, the title refers to an enigmatic 1967 David Hockney painting, showing a foaming wake in a swimming pool under a blue sky.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “A Bigger Splash” is a seductive, sensual 7, a slippery psycho-sexual thriller for adult audiences.