Many brilliant artists have also been somewhat mentally unstable. Whether it be writers, painters, or musicians, it seems that sometimes the most incredibly creative people are also the ones with the deepest problems. Catherine Hardwicke’s Plush shows that sometimes the eccentricities of an artist move beyond harmless quirks and into full-blown, dangerous obsession.
In Plush, Haley (Emily Browning) is dealing with the loss of her brother and her bandmate due to a drug overdose. Despite this, the band stays together, with the addition of Enzo (Xavier Samuel), a guitarist and huge fan of the band’s early work. Unfortunately, their new album is a critical flop, and in an effort to spark her creativity, Haley gets involved sexually with Enzo, even though she has a husband (Cam Gigandet) and two kids at home. When Enzo begins spending time with her family, Haley realizes she may be in deeper than she can handle.
Now, there’s nothing revolutionary about that story. Thrillers have been based around obsessed characters and forbidden love for as long as movies have been made, but part of what sets Plush apart from similar films is setting it against the musical backdrop.
The concert scenes and the music are done extremely well in this film. In fact, I’d say they’re done just as well as you would see in a film that is strictly about a band. Hardwicke properly balances the awesome music with the rest of the story in a way that the music is still prevalent, but it doesn’t feel like a concert movie. The music Plush plays is far from what I usually listen to, but I immensely enjoyed the songs written and played for the film. In addition to quality acting, there were high quality musicians involved on this one, and the film benefits from that greatly.
But this isn’t an album review, it’s a review of a movie, so talking about the acting is probably more appropriate. Emily Browning’s Hayley is a very interesting character. Full of insecurities, she’s been able to perform in front of large crowds ever since she had her best friend and brother by her side. Now that he’s gone, her vulnerability is really apparent. It doesn’t help that the album is bashed by critics, and she’s completely believable in all her moments of insecurity. It’s a great look into what baring one’s soul for other people’s entertainment can do to someone, especially when that soul is scoffed at by those who are made privy to it.
Cam Gidaget is great as well. He’s matured to a level where it seems completely natural to watch him play the responsible father. That’s quite a feat for a guy whose two most well-known roles are likely his turn as an asshole fighter who’s a high school student and an overly-religious, STD-infested guy who is also a high school student. The film shows both his growth and his impressive range as an actor and I can definitely see more serious leading roles for him in the near future.
Still, Xavier Samuel steals the show in this one. Many people have tried to play the crazily obsessed character, and while many have succeeded, even more have failed. Samuel falls into that first camp, as he’s absolutely thrilling to watch here. Every moment he’s on screen he emits a scathingly raw sense of sinister intentions and vulnerability. And there are few things more powerful than a villain who the audience can view as vulnerable in a relatable way.
Of course, there are moments that show he’s far from just an innocent, love-smitten boy whose intentions are misunderstood. And it’s in those moments where Hardwicke’s direction is the best. Especially noteworthy is the home video that Enzo made in his younger days. When he shows that to Hayley, his joy and her disgust contrast so wonderfully that it’s impossible to not be a little uncomfortable. That’s the moment when she realizes she may be into something she can’t handle, and then once he gets to direct her video shoot, things really start to spiral.
The film does slow a bit in the middle, with a bit too much time showing the relationship and sexual escapades between Hayley and Enzo, but by the time the third act rolls around, it’s definitely worth the wait. The end of the film is absolutely thrilling. It’s intense and chilling all at once. There aren’t any happy resolutions here, and maybe not even any real resolutions at all, but that’s not a problem in any way. Hayley’s on one wild ride, and it’s entertaining enough to be pulled along with her.
Overall, Plus is a pleasantly surprising film. Billed as a thriller, there are definitely elements that border on horror, and those are some of the best aspects of the movie. It features great performances from its two leads, and some sharp direction from Hardwicke. Depressing and creepy, yet made in a thrilling way, results in Plush being one of the most wonderfully twisted films of the year.