TIFF 2015: High-Rise
Adapted from J.G. Ballard’s novel by Amy Jump, High-Rise is yet another interesting if not entirely successful experiment by Ben Wheatley. Taking place in mid-70s England, Doctor Laing (Tom Hiddleston) moves into the massive titular building to find a social system that’s gradually taking over the sanity of every resident. The middle to lower-class tenants stay on the lower floors, while the building’s architect (Jeremy Irons) and his ultra high-class friends party it up on the top. Eventually the power starts failing, and the rich begin diverting the supply to their floors so they can keep partying it up. The lower floors begin revolting, but it might be better to describe it as a tit for tat, since they start holding their own debaucherous parties while planning a way to get to the top. Social and class lines begin to blur, and by the end High-Rise is a look at a microcosm of a world gone mad.
Wheatley’s goal with directing the film might have gone a little too far here; the film itself feels just as deranged, messy and incomprehensible as its characters, mostly hopping all around and having characters not so much interact as periodically collide with their own separate orbits. It sounds great in theory, except Wheatley spends little to no time establishing why any of what’s going on is worth investing in. It’s like Wheatley expects people to simply leap in because he has people like Hiddleston, Irons, Elisabeth Moss and Luke Evans going wacko, and that’s just not enough to give a single damn about anything going on. This is by far Wheatley’s best-looking film to date, and his ear for great soundtracks is stronger than ever (Clint Mansell provides a great score, and Portishead’s cover of Abba’s “SOS” is the sort of thing I never knew I needed in my life). It’s just a shame that, in Wheatley’s attempt to go down the rabbit hole, he forgot to take viewers with him.