Fresh (2022) Review
For all of us singles out there in the dating world, the reality of dating apps can feel like a horror film. Fresh gives us *fresh* take on that horror, and a look at the *fresh* hell Daisy Edgar-Jones’ character must face.
Noa, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones, is single, and she’s not particularly happy about it.
Noa puts herself out there on the single scene, meeting people in bars, swiping left and right on dating apps, and going to dinner with guys who are just… the worst. And, Noa feels just about done with the whole thing.
Mollie, played by Jojo T. Gibbs, lifts Noa’s spirits after yet another awful date. Both single, both looking; Mollie and Noa support each other as sisters in arms in the dating world.
After a pep talk and an uplifting workout, Noa puts herself right back out there. And almost out of nowhere, Noa runs into Steve, played by Sebastian Stan, at the grocery store.
Steve charms Noa with some bad jokes, a casual demeanor, and looking the The Winter Soldier doesn’t hurt matters either. A whirlwind hookup session later, Noa and Steve head out for a romantic weekend by themselves.
This is where Noa’s life changes forever.
The Good — Fresh
When looking at the horrors of modern dating from a woman’s point of view in a film, one must find an actor capable of charm as well as violence to cast as the bad guy. Sebastian Stan fits that role perfectly.
Stan’s classic good looks and affable charm portray the All American type guy that puts people at ease. Also, his subtle manner easily slides from good to evil, chillingly turning dark on a dime.
This tough balance to keep without going full serial killer happens quietly. You feel Sebastian Stan’s presence without being overwhelmed, and without going full horror film. He keeps the tone light enough to be a dark comedy, and yet you don’t forget for a second what his character is capable of.
Sound Design and Editing
Much of the Second and Third Acts focuses heavily on food preparation and eating, relatively normal and mundane acts, but take on a heightened psychological impact in Fresh.
Director Mimi Cave does her part with the extreme closeups, weird camera angles, and weird lighting, but the real impact hits with the sounds that raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Chewing sounds, knives cutting through meat and grinding against the cutting board, and even hearts beating all are perfectly recorded, timed, and mixed. Each sound raises the anxiety of the audience and emphasizes the ‘yuck’ factor to the next level.
The Bad — Fresh
Director Mimi Cave tries to ride that fine line between a Dark Comedy and a Horror film. However, Cave has a hard time finding where the line should be, or the right way to ride that line.
Cave spends the first act of the movie establishing a grounded reality for Noa, our lead character and modern dater trying to navigate the treacherous world of dating apps and trying to not end up alone.
However, when the opening credits of the film FINALLY role over 30 minutes into film, the heightened reality of Noa’s situation isn’t shown as differently as it should be. We get a few minutes of blurry back grounds, and that’s about it.
Instead of using a visually distinct style for the Dark Comedy/Horror sections of the film, we get a largely standard looking film. No difference in lens choices, color grading, dutch angles, etc. alter how we see Noa’s world; even though her perception of the world has changed. This is a missed opportunity for the Director to truly show off the difference in Noa’s reality and world view.
Supporting Character Usage
The Supporting Cast, led by Jojo T. Gibb’s performance as Noa’s Best Friend Mollie is cast well with talented actors. However, Director Mimi Caves usage of that supporting cast lacks a strong execution.
Mollie keeps hope alive for much of the early part of the film, but she disappears in the third act. Dayo Okeniyi as the Bartender named Paul is used infrequently and has some funny lines, but his role could have been so much more. Think Lil Rel Howery’s role as Rod Williams in ‘Get Out’.
And, while the ‘Count Of Monte Cristo’-inspired character Penny, played by Andrea Bang, provides depth and insight in the cell next door; the character doesn’t play a critical role with resolving the film. Yet another missed opportunity.
The Review — Fresh
The trailers for Fresh had me excited enough to make Fresh my #9 most anticipated film of March, but the reality of this film is rather bland and boring.
Because the setup of the film lasts half an hour, and we don’t get our twist (or opening credits) until 30 minutes into the two hour movie; Fresh drags from the get. By establishing a grounded reality for the film, and not shifting the tone and feel after the twist; we don’t see just how different Steve’s world of murder and mystery really is.
The class consciousness issues behind Steve’s business go completely unexplored, minus a few throw away lines about money and power. And, if Director Mimi Cave wanted to avoid those completely (which I totally get), then why didn’t we explore Steve’s motivations beyond the fact that he developed a ‘taste’ for his actions?
Also, the use of Steve’s murder house seemed like a missed opportunity. The maroon color palette and only slightly upscale furniture and decorations called back to James Spader’s law office in ‘Secretary’, yet this never figured into the plot or climax of the film in a meaningful way.
Sebastian Stan and Daisy Edgar-Jones are good actors who did a passable job with this script, but their performances lack a specificity or point of view that makes this story pop. This is not the fault of the actors, but rather a missed opportunity for Director Mimi Cave.
That theme of missed opportunities repeats itself many times in this review. I love the concept behind this movie, but can’t help but shake my head over what Fresh could have been. Imagine a well directed, well balanced, self contained Indie classic; versus the generic, unfocused, and over blended slog that we actually got.
Not awful, but nowhere near good. Skip it.