There are three characters in it Mannaand none of them have a name: a wealthy tech CEO played by Jesse Plemons (The power of the dog), his wife, played by Lily Collins (Emilia in Paris), and the man who robs them, played by Jason Segel (The Muppets). They shouldn’t have met: at the beginning of the film, the thief is alone in the couple’s empty mansion. it’s only when the couple changes their plans and comes to see him in their home that the film’s tense 90-minute negotiation begins. In the next single act, the real hostage is not a person, it is the idea of meritocracy, like Manna slowly becomes a classy thriller about the imprisonment of the Mark Zuckerbergs of the prison world.
The latest film by director Charlie McDowell (What I love), now streaming on Netflix, is a Hitchcockian throwback, a sober and clear directing exercise and the tension that arises when you put three people and a gun together in a room. Each character comes to the screen and reveals something about themselves, even if they are trying not to. The more time they spend together, the more they reveal, even when it’s bad for them. They can’t help being who they are.
Shot with wide shots and long shots, Manna it looks like a play, even if it doesn’t give up the pleasures of cinema. Its unique set, the villa and the surrounding orange grove, is lovingly portrayed with symmetrical compositions and shades of gold. The film’s soundtrack is filled with high-pitched woods that carry listeners across peaks and valleys as the power dynamics change between the trio, whose performances are just strong enough to definitely take them out of the “subtle” range, but not so strong that they become fully cartoons.
Plemons is a delight as the “CEO,” a man who, for much of the film’s duration, can’t believe he’s been robbed. He suspects that he somehow victimized the intruder, whose motivation was never fully disclosed: that his livelihood was somehow damaged by the successes of the CEO’s companies, or that he is enraged about the stature of the director delegate and perceives it as undeserved. This belief manifests itself as complacent condescension towards the boy who holds him hostage: in a scene where the couple’s unexpected guest asks for money, the CEO laughs and says he should ask for double.
Much of Manna it is made up of the male protagonists going back and forth about what each desires and whether the other deserves to make his wishes come true. In this sense, the CEO becomes an avatar for the new elite of tech billionaires, believing they have earned him his status and facing significant adversity, while the whole world eagerly awaits someone like him to fall. The thief, faced with the meanness of his prey, finds solace in the belief that his understanding of people remains superior, no matter how desperate his situation becomes. Like the thief, Segel is a separate highlight: skittish and skinny, displaying a bit of a mean streak rarely seen in his acting work. And in the balance of her is her wife: the quiet fulcrum of the film, whose sympathies change and fluctuate depending on who is listening to her and who is not.
MannaThe script, written by Justin Lader and Andrew Kevin Walker (from a story by Lader, Walker, Segel and McDowell), isn’t subtle enough to make the film a success. His commentary is heavy, his characters are sketched too carefully. But the script lets all three characters become satisfactorily messy, as each of them crosses little lines that surprise the others, in a series of transgressions that build up until the three people at the end of the film are completely different from each other. three at the beginning. This is the dangerous thing about so-called meritocracies: they are often built on lies that are rewarded with money. Take those lies into account and the real person below starts to look a lot less great than before.
Manna is now available to stream on Netflix.