Instead of our usual 3pm sweet treat, the RUSSH team held out a little longer last Friday and went on an excursion to SXSW Sydney instead, to see the premiere of Saltburn. Jacob Elordi and Barry Keoghan in a psychosexual thriller? That's worthy of the whole candy aisle. Without giving away too many spoilers, we wanted to run you through our favourite things about Emerald Fennell's sophomore film, which is as debaucherous and dangerous as it looks.
It's a huge cast
OK so you know about Jacob Elordi as Felix Catton and Barry Keoghan as the interloper Oliver Quick. Maybe you've seen stills of Rosamund Pike, who plays the waspish mother of the Catton clan, and Richard E. Grant who stars as their inscrutable father. However, the swirling custard of A-listers thickens when you realise Felix's venomous sister Venetia is Alison Oliver from Conversations with Friends, Carey Mulligan is pathetic Pamela, Midsommar's Archie Madekwe is the cunning Farleigh, and House of the Dragon's Ewan Mitchell plays the offbeat outsider Michael Gavey. We guarantee you'll be obsessed with every performance. I was hanging on to Alison Oliver's every word.
— Ezra Cubero (@EzraCubero) October 19, 2023
Are you Team Jacob or Team Barry?
Why don't people ask us this in job interviews instead???
Prepare for a heady hit of 2000s nostalgia
It's strange to think that we can be nostalgic for 2006, yet here we are. Saltburn starts rolling in the mid 2000s, and little fragments of pop culture act as timestamps throughout the film. As summer break unfurls at the sumptuous English country estate, Felix reads the final Harry Potter topless by the lilypad-littered lake, which was published on July 21, 2007. At other points, Saltburn's inhabitants gather in front of a silver cube of a TV to watch Superbad and The Ring or sing karaoke to Low by Flo Rida. You feel the intro to Mr Brightside before you really hear it, and the film wraps up to a pitch perfect use of Sophie Ellis-Bextor's Murder on the Dancefloor. Chef's kiss.
The rich know how to party
It's a sad truth. With great money comes great stocks of Ruinart. It's one of the life's many indignities. Even if they're hollow inside, the Cattons really are having a great time in their mansion, playing on the tennis court, under the sun by their lake, wearing Black Tie at dinner. Because of this, the party scenes are some of the best moments during the film. Besides the relief of Elordi removing his eyebrow piercing. We miss the pure days of Connell's chain.
Fennell says "Eat the Rich!"
A lot of people have compared Saltburn to The Talented Mr Ripley, Donna Tartt's The Secret History – the film itself knowingly references Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited and Common People by Pulp. But when the RUSSH team left the cinema, all we could think about was Bong Joon-ho's Parasite. Where Promising Young Woman was a feminist revenge story, in Saltburn, Fennell swaps patriarchy for class. It's as simple as that. There's chat of vampires and moths and spiders spinning their webs. Everything is out there in the open. The blood suckers get their blood sucked. It's not particularly nuanced but it is wrapped in pretty packaging, and that's good enough for us. Next time you're feeling a burst of rage at Elon Musk and the 1%, watch this.
Sex... isn't very sexy
Now a huge talking point of Saltburn will likely be the unmasking that occurs during the last 30 minutes of the film – like a whodunit we all saw coming. But that doesn't mean Emerald Fennell wants to send us home hungry, make no mistake, we are here to Eat The Rich! Sex is a way to explore this voracious desire, obsession, and so it's especially lecherous in Saltburn. I can think of three scenes in particular that will make you shrivel in your cinema seat – some involve bodily fluids, others are just... strange and painful to watch. We were promised humid gay romance, we were given an American Pie moment between Barry Keoghan and a grave. We only have ourselves to blame.