Movies

Critics Have Seen Kinds Of Kindness, And Yorgos Lanthimos’ Latest Collab With Emma Stone Promises To Be Polarizing With Its ‘Pitch-Black Humor’

Filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos wowed audiences in 2023 with the help of Emma Stone in Poor Things, and the duo are back sooner than many expected for their third overall collaboration. Kinds of Kindness premieres June 21, and it sounds like moviegoers are in for a truly unique theatrical experience. Critics have had the opportunity to screen the absurdist comedy, and while the responses are mostly positive, the film promises to be polarizing with its bleak humor and exploration of human perversion.

Kinds of Kindness is a triptych anthology, featuring its stars — who include Emma Stone’s Poor Things co-stars Willem Dafoe and Margaret Qualley, as well as Jesse Plemons, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, Mamoudou Athie and others — playing different characters in three separate but loosely connected stories. Let’s see what critics are saying.

Aaron Neuwirth of We Live Entertainment gives it a user rating of 8 out of 10, noting the director’s return to pitch-black humor as he shines a light on the complexities of human relationships and varying forms of perversions through shocking and funny payoffs. The critic writes: 

For a near-3-hour feature riding on the momentum of offbeat humor punctuated by Jerskin Fendrix’s ridiculous yet appropriate score, I found the pacing to never miss a step as far as keeping me involved. Ultimately, while I have no doubts mileage will vary on how much some appreciate what Kinds of Kindness has to offer, there is a sense of discovery with something so deliberately out there as this that I was happy and willing to go along this journey, and was met with a weird sense of elation throughout, even when the movie angled toward its darkest of ideas. I guess I can just agree with how Lanthimos pulls the strings.

Clint Worthington of Consequence grades the movie a B-, agreeing with the above opinion that fans craving the dirtier, nastier side of Yorgos Lanthimos will likely be satisfied by Kinds of Kindness, a “celebration of the ways we degrade ourselves/each other and enjoy it.” Worthington concludes: 

As these things go, two out of three ain’t bad, and it’s nice to see Lanthimos back in the saddle as one of our foremost mainstream explorers of abuse and malaise. Sure, his works with Tony McNamara feel acerbic enough, but there’s a rush to seeing Yorgos peer into the abyss of human cruelty and forcing our heads down to peek too. It loses its luster after a little while, but Kinds of Kindness commits itself to unveiling our pathetic human need for connection, and the ways we’ll destroy ourselves (and others) to grasp it.

Nick Schager of The Daily Beast recommends audiences “See This” one-of-a-kind film that lets Emma Stone’s freak flag fly. The two-time Oscar winner and Jesse Plemons are Kinds of Kindness’ standouts throughout the genuine and consistently surprising triptych that is so thrillingly bizarre, you won’t want to miss it. Schager continues: 

A triptych whose title provides merely a vague clue as to its overriding purpose, Lanthimos’ latest is a study of compassion, love, sacrifice, and belonging that doesn’t embrace oddness so much as sloppily tongue-kiss it. Attuning itself to its own wacko wavelength and then riding it through three distinct tales—which are populated by the same actors in different roles—it’s about as unconventional as marquee releases get, frustrating easy readings and thwarting dramatic and comedic expectations at every careening turn. Alternately electric and maddening, it’s likely to polarize audiences more than any multiplex offering this year.

It’s already polarizing some critics as not everyone is as game for the experience as those above. Anna Smith of GamesRadar rates the movie 2 out of 5 stars, calling it “hollow” and saying the project feels misanthropic and at times misogynistic. Critics largely seem to be on board with the film, Smith says, but mainstream audiences may be a harder sell. In her words: 

All the set-ups are intriguing, and wouldn’t look out of place in the twist-driven series The Twilight Zone, which may or may not be an inspiration, along with the works of Franz Kafka. But the tone is so bleak, the dialogue so off-kilter (even for Lanthimos), that it’s hard to enjoy the film in between its comical moments. You might care to see this as an allegory about power, sex and control, but it doesn’t feel like it’s saying anything particularly profound.

Ryan Coleman of Slant echoes the above thoughts, calling Yorgos Lanthimos “anchored in the shallows,” as Kinds of Kindness contains the seeds for several good movies if Lanthimos had the patience to cultivate them. Coleman rates the movie just 1.5 stars out of 4, writing: 

Because [Lanthimos’] inclination is toward suppression, smothering banality, and cerebral detachment, his lack of focus on this film renders a more crudely over-determined and unyielding product than he’s made in some years. The abstraction is presented with even more cloying cuteness, the sadism is more juvenile and purposeless, and the humor is stomach-turningly glib.

Despite a nearly three-hour runtime and what sounds like some tough subject matter and bleak humor, more critics are leaving the movie with positive impressions than negative, and Kinds of Kindness so far has a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. How will audiences react? We’ll find out soon, as the film hits theaters on Friday, June 21. Be sure to check out our 2024 movie calendar to see what else is coming soon. 

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