At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Fresh “2022”

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Dark Comedy Horror Thriller/ Stars: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jonica T. Gibbs, Charlotte Le Bon, Dayo Okeniyi, Andrea Bang, Brett Dier/ Runtime: 114 minutes

If there is one thing I have never been able to fully understand about people my age (and even people who are older and younger) it is that I have never understood the appeal of using dating apps to try and find potential romantic interests. Oh sure I get that they make vetting potential people you would like to get to know better in that way a lot easier (even whilst giving your hands some serious carpal tunnel from the repeated flicking left and right). At the same time however, there is a lot more to a person than a well-written paragraph they probably had a well-paid friend write for them and a photo that is probably the only one in the albums on their phone that they could put up for the public to see. Yet as wonderful as meeting and getting to know people in a face to face format in the world around us can truly be, I am equally as sure there have been more than just a few situations where you wish you hadn’t. The reason I bring this up is because the slice of cinema I am reviewing today Fresh is one that shows proof of this first hand. Indeed here is a slice of cinema that may start out having you think this is going to be a refreshing change of pace for the rom-com genre of movie magic, but instead actually decides to junk punch you and reveals itself to be one of the more novel and just downright warped slices of horror cinema I have seen from someone whose name is NOT Jordan Peele, Jordan Peele, or….Jordan Peele (joking, joking). What is not a joke however is that from the half hour mark in this slice of cinema onward I was completely and utterly gob smacked as to where the film’s narrative had chosen to go and I remained in that state right up until the end credits began to roll. Indeed here is a slice of cinema that manages to prove to be a wonderful and fairly brilliant balancing act of some truly riveting horror components along with a delightful dollop of Daisy, but more importantly of social commentary that in this slice of cinema takes the form of examining not only the way a lot of young people take on the world of dating nowadays, but also just how exactly women are viewed in that world as well. A blend of ingredients which I can easily say is already a brilliant mixture to make a wonderful horror slice of cinema. However when you also factor in terrific work behind the camera and a collection of phenomenal performances in front of the camera (especially from MCU veteran Sebastian Stan) what you are given is not just a great movie or a riveting horror film, but rather something that is really truly and legitimately special through and through.

The plot is as follows: Fresh gets underway as we are introduced to our main character, a twenty-something year old living in Los Angeles (I’m guessing) by the name of Noa who is in a wee bit of a rut. This is because despite having a fairly good job she is quite skilled at as well as a friend named Mollie she loves spending time with, this is a young woman who like a lot of people of that age range in the present day world has been getting her dates through a dating app. Unlike the majority of young people who use these apps however, we see that, especially in the aftermath of one especially lousy date with a guy who turns out to be a royal jerk and a half, that our main heroine would like to start finding romance in a way that relies more on human methods and less on flicking left or right on a phone screen (noble goal). Perhaps this is why she, following a chance encounter at the grocery store (of all places) with a handsome, decent, and most importantly from Texas (priorities people) single doctor by the name of Steve, she not only gives him her number, but also agrees that she will see him again. So it is that we see a few days later that our main heroine meets her potential Prince Charming at a hipster bar/restaurant where they engage in the time honored small talk of getting to know each other. Somehow I guess this works because we soon see the pair enter into a fairly quick whirlwind romance that not only sees them sleeping together, but also sees Prince Charming ask his beautiful new significant other if she would like to come away with him on a remote weekend getaway. However it is when our heroine agrees to all of this that we see that the rug is swiftly and horrifically pulled out from under her and it is revealed that her Prince Charming might not exactly be the man that she thought he was and the song “Love is a Battlefield” by Pat Benatar has now (for our heroine at least) become a truly terrifying reality.

Now I know that sounds incredibly vague for a plot synopsis, and you know what? You would be absolutely right in thinking that. However, I would also like to point out that not only have every single one of my ploy synopses that I have given been to some degree or another vague, but this is also a slice of cinema that is easily one that the less you know about it, the more likely it will be that you enjoy it. In fact, if you watch the movie’s trailer I can honestly say that this is one time where I really applaud the studio’s marketing since it really doesn’t spoil anything and instead does what a trailer is supposed to do which gives you the bare minimum in order to entice you into seeing the rest of the movie. At any rate, I can honestly say that perhaps the finest praise that I could think to bestow upon this slice of cinema is that it is a movie that was meant for its intended female audience through and through. Don’t get me wrong: I have no doubt in my mind that there are going to be men who also will enjoy this slice of cinema (you can most assuredly count me as one of them), but the fact remains that this slice of cinema is one that is truly an accurate representation of the female dating experience. Indeed from those little common occurrences like being terrified out of your mind when you are having to stroll back to your vehicle late at night in the aftermath of a particularly bad first date with a super sketchy dude to having that one BFF who is more than capable, and more than often does, social media and Internet creep on a possible date’s whole life right down to finding his house on Google Earth, the script that this slice of cinema is operating with proves to be a genuine look at yes the potential terror, but also the comedy and comradery that exists between women, with particular regard to all the single ladies, in the year 2022. Yet even when taking that into account, there is also no denying that this slice of cinema’s creative team behind the camera are able to skillfully walk the lines between horror, dark comedy, & thriller genres of movie magic whilst making sure that the overall film never leans too far into a single genre since doing so might disrupt the well-paced tempo that this slice of cinema is choosing to operate with. It should also be said that whilst yes there are a few moments of strong violence in this (as hinted at in the description of the rating from the MPAA), but thankfully this creative team is aware that perhaps what might chill us more isn’t showing us everything in significantly graphic detail, but instead showing us flashes here and there and then permitting our imaginations which are already recoiling in terror from what we have seen to finish filling in the rest of the blanks for us. Suffice it to say that this is one cinematic trick that has worked for countless horror films and it most assuredly works here as well. Finally, I also want to praise this slice of cinema for the fact that yes this movie is gorgeously helmed and shot, but the creative team behind the camera also does a wonderful job of ensuring it is also equipped with a truly dynamic soundtrack that not only our main characters, but even you the movie goer may find yourself dancing along with. Indeed I can honestly say that not since the disco dancing scene from Ex Machina has a slice of cinema chosen to include a nefarious and instantly memorable dance scene to some truly engaging 80s music. With that being said though it is worth noting that this slice of cinema’s helmer, who is incidentally making her debut as a motion picture director with this, started out initially as a helmer of music videos for artists including Vance Joy, Danny Brown, Sleigh Bells, Sylvan Esso, Lucius & Tune-Yards. As such, it really didn’t surprise me as much as it might others that she would make the creative choice to let the soundtrack operate less as a collection of songs and more like an just as effective character as the actors themselves in this slice of cinema.

Now in terms of the work done in front of the camera, I think it can quite easily be said that this slice of cinema is one that requires no more and no less than the absolute best out of its trinity of main stars Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, and Jonica T. Gibbs. In that respect therefore, I am happy to say that each and every one of these performers completely hits a cinematic home run with their performances in this film. Indeed I was so happy for Daisy to get this fairly dare I say meaty part in the aftermath of her performance as Marianne in Normal People and she makes for a terrific protagonist in this. Indeed not only does she bring to the role of Noa a genuine affability and screen presence, but she also is right from the word go highly relatable which is absolutely essential in this. Oh and she also is a fantastic heroine when the time comes for her to kick some serious butt. Suffice it to say that it’s a truly wonderful performance and I look forward to seeing where this immensely talented actress goes from here. As the proverbial thorn in her side however is Sebastian Stan and honestly if the only thing you have ever seen him in is his tenure as Bucky in the MCU then boy are you in for a surprise with this one. Indeed this is a character that is less Bucky and more like the role of Jeff in the movie I, Tonya if Jeff had a sinister secret or two that had absolutely nothing to do with hiring people to kneecap figure skaters. On top of that, Sebastian and Daisy have insanely good chemistry in this which not only makes it easy to watch their respective back and forth with each other, but it also increases the suspense of the film as you are honestly never sure as to how this is all going to play out. If there is one character that I think is a stand out character in this slice of cinema however it would be the character of Mollie as played by Jonica T. Gibbs. Indeed not only does she walk away easily with every single scene she is given, but I really appreciated how she hilariously manages to call out left and right the various red flags in this relationship as they appeared whilst not taking anyone’s crud whatsoever. Indeed had this movie been one that opened in theaters, I guarantee she would easily become the person who everyone would applaud whenever she pops up in this.

All in all and at the end of the day I am not gonna lie to you dear reader: this slice of cinema might have a few flaws here and there, but overall Fresh “2022” is one movie that I can most definitely assure you is going to be nestled quite snugly inside my head for quite a while. In fact, if you are the kind of person who likes a good steak like me don’t be surprised if you find yourself thinking twice. On the other hand however, if you are someone who is a vegan and you’ve often wondered what all the hoopla surrounding a nice filet mignon is all about then I can promise you that this is not going to be the movie that makes you want to know more. Sarcastic and wry observations aside, I honestly really like and admire this slice of cinema and in fact a movie like this is the kind of film that makes me really appreciate what I do and try to help promote a slice of cinema that I definitely feel is something special let alone something that should be viewed by as many movie viewers as possible. No this slice of cinema is most assuredly not going to be everyone’s slice of ribeye, but if you are willing to check something out that is not only truly distinct, but also quite enjoyable in the most twisted way possible then definitely check this one out. I promise you most assuredly will not forget it. On a scale of 1-5 I give Fresh “2022” a solid 3.5 out of 5.