Misguided direction leads to a fragmented result in this period piece.
RATING: ★ (out of four stars)
Lady Macbeth was a very frustrating film to watch for many reasons. On one side, it’s frustrating because it could have been a great film. And on the other side, it’s frustrating because of how uncomfortable and somewhat disgusting some scenes are. Lady Macbeth was easily the most uncomfortable movie I’ve seen all year. I usually love period pieces, so it was slightly disappointing that it misfires for nearly the entire hour and thirty-minute run time. Sure, there were a few good moments, along with an impressive lead in Florence Pugh, who’s exceptional as the main character Katherine. But as a whole, Lady Macbeth has multiple issues.
What keeps Lady Macbeth from functioning as a powerful period piece is that it’s very fragmented and inconsistent. The first 30 minutes are messy, unclear, and simply don’t seem to have much direction. Katherine is in a forced marriage with Alexander (Paul Hilton) and it becomes very clear that she’s unhappy with him and her living situation. Alexander leaves for an extended period of time and Katherine somewhat forcefully falls in love with Sebastian while Alexander is gone; their relationship is odd and lacks chemistry. In a movie where the entire story revolves around their love and what they do to keep it alive, the nonexistent chemistry becomes a huge problem. As a viewer, it’s difficult to care about these two characters as the story progresses.
There is a scene in Lady Macbeth that, in my opinion, just goes too far. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s one of those scenes that will make a number of people walk out of the theater. In addition to that scene, there are a few other moments that are just odd. Katherine is insanely in love with Sebastian, but it really doesn’t make any sense as to why. Sure, one could say that she’s been in a forced marriage and he provides something new and exciting. But some of the things that she does for him don’t line up with the love that’s conveyed on-screen. It would have been more believable had there been more of a setup with Katherine’s life and marriage, but it all happens within the first 15 minutes of the movie, making it feel extremely rushed.
Another issue with the movie is its cinematography, which at times almost felt like a student film. There was way too much unmotivated and unnecessary, handheld, shaky cam that just felt out of place. It was almost too obvious that this was low-budget film that could not afford the steadicam operator that they so desperately needed. The audio noticeably popped two or three times, and that was very distracting.
Lady Macbeth had potential, but misfires in the end because of its unclear direction. The second act was actually good, but the first and third acts were messy and plain gross. I hope to see Florence Pugh in more films because she was fantastic here, showing that she has a bright future ahead of her. However, everything else here makes this boring period piece not worth your time.