Sundance Review: Simon Killer (in competition, U.S. Dramatic)

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Maybe one of the reasons that Simon Killer had such a great deal of buzz going into Sundance 2012 was its name. Simon is Killer. “Killer,” as in unusual, or entertaining, e.g., this eleven-day festival is killer. Well, you can kill that pre-buzz right now. Though there’s a lot to appreciate in this tale about the disturbed titular character (Brady Corbet), due to the overdone efforts of writer/director Antonio Campos, the movie ends up killing itself. And might as well be retitled Simon Suicide.

We first meet Corbet’s Simon as he’s recounting his tale of woe to his mother’s friend Carlo (Nicolas Ronchi), who’s allowing Simon to stay in his Parisian apartment while he’s away for the week. Simon is suffering from an unhappy breakup with his girlfriend of five years. Though he’s a recent college graduate, studying neuroscience and the connection between the eye and the brain, he’s at a crossroads as to what to do with his life. He immediately starts wandering the city’s streets, approaching women who aren’t all that interested. But he meets up with a friendly hooker named Victoria (Mati Diop), and after paying for her services a few times, he talks her into letting him move in with her. At least for awhile.

Visuals are a big deal here. It’s not just what Simon looks at, but which part captures his attention. His reality is often on the verge of disintegrating, portrayed with a strobe-like fading and flickering that hijacks the screen. People are often shot as a body part here, a body part there, sometimes just a scratch of a silhouette. In small doses, this might have been powerful. But Campos relies too heavily on this device, as well as a back-of-the-head follow shot that’s so overused, it verges on the comical. Clever cinematography is one thing – but when the camera’s focus (or lack thereof) trumps the story’s focus — then we simply can’t see eye-to-eye.

Corbet, who appeared in last year’s Martha Marcy May Marlene (directed by Sean Durkin, a producer of this film) engineers what’s expected of him very well. But he can only do so much: Simon is written as a Teflon sociopath, his interior disturbances only occasionally arising via a pronounced wailing that wrenches directly from his gut. While Simon can appear to be hurt or needy or desperate … the end game is something completely different. Even the most casual of facts are liquid, eventually leading us to consider that nothing we know about Simon may be true.

Like Simon, we could also choose to wail … but out of frustration. With a particularly affecting performance from Mati Diop as Simon’s prostitute girlfriend, and some fascinating and even funny scenes (i.e., a masturbation sequence, in which Simon keeps losing his internet porn connection), this movie should have been a killer. Damn.


Rating on a scale of 5 not-so-simple Simons: 2.5

Written and directed by: Antonio Campos
Cast: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Michael Abiteboul, Constance Rousseau, Lila Salet, Solo, Nicolas Ronchi
Running Time: 95 minutes

About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 500+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes ( Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.


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