Review by Sean Boelman
One of the biggest acquisitions before Sundance even began was when Searchlight and Hulu picked up Fresh from the midnight section. A fun and wild ride, Mimi Cave’s film is the type of film that is best experienced without knowing anything going in, but it’s attempts at subversiveness are sometimes a bit too much for its own good.
The film follows a young woman who, after finding herself frustrated with modern dating, meets a handsome and charming man and enters into a relationship with him that might be too good to be true. Ultimately, the film does use its unexpected twists as a bit of a crutch, and so while they are effective, it doesn’t have the substance to back up the gimmick.
The film definitely is a lot of fun to watch. Even though the first act isn’t as intense as the remaining two thirds, it still sets up that fun atmosphere. It strikes a great balance between the humor and dread, which will make the viewer laugh with a feeling of discomfort for a majority of the runtime.
There are some interesting things to be said in the film about modern dating and the commoditization of women’s bodies. Yet even though both themes are connected, it feels like the film is trying to juggle too many ideas. There is a lot of dialogue that is really on-the-nose, although the script is quite witty.
The character development in the film is solid but it devolves into archetypes by the end of the film. It is easy to get behind the protagonist, and her love interest is written in a slyly charming way. However, it is the dynamic between the two characters that really drives the narrative forward.
Sebastian Stan gives the performance of his career in his role, and he single-handedly carries the film. Yes, there are a lot of solid things happening around him, but he is the only element of the film that nears greatness. Daisy Edgar-Jones is also good, but she is frequently overshadowed by Stan.
The film also has a killer aesthetic. For it being Cave’s directorial debut, the film is surprisingly confident in its style. It’s a sleek film, and while the subject would typically lend itself to something campy, Cave avoids that pitfall. Instead, the inspired soundtrack and great cinematography by Pawel Pogorzeiski give the film a stylish feel.
Fresh has a strong concept, a good performance, and solid visuals working for it, but these elements don’t always come together. It’s not a bad time by any means, but it doesn’t fully deliver on its potential.
Fresh screened at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, which runs virtually January 20-30.