“When they’re not sporting loosely buttoned up shirts, they’re wearing suits while asserting that those around them are not wearing suits as good as theirs— “that’s a rental, right?”. How refreshing.”
Jeannie McGuinness shows scepticism on the upcoming film Saltburn.
During my time at Oxford, I have encountered many interesting people, the likes of which I had never seen before. I am, of course, referring to society’s ‘elite’– the kind you see in Gossip Girl and view as entirely fictional until you come across them in real life, probably in a Pret or perhaps the Oxford Union. The longer I spend here, the more I see these individuals, and the more normal to me they become. Their perspectives on life, informed by their privileged backgrounds, become pretty unavoidable, and hence I am sure you can understand my frustration when the trailer for Saltburn emerged.
The opening lines of the aforementioned film trailer transpire between two northern students, in a discussion of how they aren’t invited to the evening’s ‘college party’: “NFI, me and you, not fuckin invited”. Naturally, the trademark northern flat vowels shine through here, though it remains unclear as to what they are trying to insinuate. It seems as if members of this fictional college are perhaps having a southern-only party, or maybe it’s that only southerners could possibly have the wealth to fit in with that crowd? All possibilities seem bleak. Aside from being insulting, this doesn’t even seem unbelievable. There have been countless times where I have been in conversations where my voice is the one that sticks out, the one that people like to analyse as if it’s a fun party trick. After experiencing such scenarios in the real world, why would I then choose to see this be fictionalised on screen? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think more people need to be told that the rich and privileged are corrupt and often participate in strange, cult-like behaviours. Have you ever heard of the Church of Scientology?
Aside from my issues with the dialogue, the outfits in the trailer would be enough to keep me well away. The image of a boy wearing an aggressive amount of Ralph Lauren, smoking a cigarette, with an obnoxiously posh accent is borderline triggering, and not one I want to see on the big screen with a box of popcorn that you need to take out a small loan to afford. It also seems relatively likely that many audience members will be wearing this same uniform, and that is an irony that I simply would not be able to take. When they’re not sporting loosely buttoned up shirts, they’re wearing suits while asserting that those around them are not wearing suits as good as theirs— “that’s a rental, right?”. How refreshing.
Even if I didn’t have personal concerns with this subject matter, this particular take on class and inequality just seems lazy to me. The concept of a group of rich people going to a secluded location and then facing a set of tragic events as some sort of metaphor for our capitalist society feels predictable. The likes of Knives Out and even the Young Adult book series The Inheritance Games have this area covered, it’s time to move on. Wouldn’t it be so much more interesting if this scenario was flipped, and the privileged character Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) went back to Liverpool with Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), and saw a side of life that he’d never been exposed to before? Saltburn (the place) seems to be an extended microcosm of the existing Oxford community, nothing particularly unexpected.
I’m not the only one who thinks so, either. Critic Mireia Muller in her Digital Spy article commented that the film suffers from “pop-culture indigestion”, and ultimately “fails to land anything meaningful”. It seems that the film might’ve been more worthwhile if it had only gone up north, rather than remaining in the south. It’s like HS2 all over again.
It also seems worth considering that Emerald Fennell herself may not be the best captain for this ship, considering the sensitivity of some of the class related subject matter. Fennell herself could not exactly relate to the likes of Oliver Quick, a working class boy from Liverpool, especially with her star-studded 18th birthday thrown for her by her parents back in 2003 (as covered by Tatler). The attendees included the likes of Lady Alexandra Gordon Lennox and the actress-model combo Poppy Delevigne. I don’t know about you, but none of my friends back home have official titles, and my 18th did not involve sipping pink champagne with my fellow privately educated friends.
Despite all of this, I’m sure there will be many Oxford students taking themselves down to the Phoenix Picture House on Friday to watch the latest indie film (because they’re into the more underground stuff) and will revel in the utterly profound ground that will no doubt be broken on that day. Unfortunately, unless a mysterious and distant relative dies and leaves me a large inheritance, I don’t think I will get quite as much enjoyment out of Saltburn as others. I will, however, be watching the new Hunger Games film, a picture of wealth and inequality that I hope to find more entertaining than I do frustrating (also out on Friday).