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HomeReview‘The Substance’: Cannes Review

‘The Substance’: Cannes Review

Dir/scr: Coralie Fargeat. UK/US/France. 2024. 140mins

Author-director Coralie Fargeat’s second characteristic could seemingly tackle a well-known narrative trope — the ageing magnificence who makes a faustian discount to be younger once more — however this potent physique horror is executed with talent and compassion, bringing recent insights alongside beneficiant helpings of graphic gore. The Substance attracts glorious performances from Demi Moore as a has-been Hollywood star and Margaret Qualley because the youthful, prettier model she creates by injecting herself with the titular serum. Even when the movie often dangers overplaying its hand, Fargeat retains furiously churning by way of concepts — particularly, about how the leisure trade traumatises girls into doing horrible issues to themselves with the intention to stay employable.

Fargeat delivers in spectacular and revolting trend

With The Substance, Fargeat additional confirms her standing as a bracingly feminist filmmaker utilizing excessive genres to skewer systemic misogyny. Her 2017 debut, the brutal revenge thriller Revenge, performed at Toronto, and her sophomore movie debuts in a Cannes Competitors slot. The 2 leads, alongside a properly loathsome Dennis Quaid, will assist hook viewers — MUBI is dealing with theatrical for the UK and US — however The Substance needs to be particularly engaging to midnight film crowds, who will dig its twisted Cronenberg-ian parts. 

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Moore performs Elisabeth Sparkle, an award-winning actress who, as she approaches 50, should now content material herself with internet hosting a tacky exercise present. However even that will get taken away when her slimy producer Harvey (Quaid) fires her for being too outdated. Despondent about her profession, which is the one factor she has, Elisabeth learns of a mysterious programme referred to as The Substance, which guarantees to provide her a greater, youthful model of herself. Determined, she indicators up, following very particular directions about take the system and what the foundations for this routine should be. 

Instantly after injecting herself, Elisabeth collapses, a daunting blob ripping itself out of her again. Quickly, that blob turns into a stunning younger girl (Qualley) who inhabits the identical consciousness as Elisabeth, who’s now deactivated. Based on The Substance’s instructions, Elisabeth might be herself for per week, however then the youthful model, who names herself Sue, should be awake for per week, and so forth. Excited at this second probability, Sue prepares to get again her outdated fitness-guru job.

On the floor, The Substance is a condemnation of Hollywood’s obsession with youth, however Fargeat persistently digs deeper, not simply exploring tangential themes but in addition crafting a wealthy central character with a sympathetic dilemma. It’s unattainable not to think about Moore’s personal profession by way of the prism of Elisabeth’s — Moore has been a star for the reason that Eighties, though she has not loved plum movie roles lately — and she or he brings each poignancy and a sly sense of humour to her portrayal, satirising Hollywood’s shallowness whereas acknowledging how psychologically damaging sexist attitudes about ’older’ girls might be. And Qualley is equally slicing as an virtually satirical model of callous youthful ’hotness’. (Value noting: the actress’ mom is veteran movie star Andie MacDowell, including one other stage to the movie’s observations about ageing.)

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It’s hardly shocking that Elisabeth elects to take The Substance — and it’s equally unsurprising that her hubris causes her myriad nightmares. However whereas a few of these problems could also be anticipated, Fargeat’s considerate investigation of this horror-film conceit retains springing small surprises, sharply commenting on the methods through which we envy and despise our youthful selves, seeing them as a unique entity than ourselves. As well as, mother-daughter relationships, magnificence’s fleeting forex and males’s basic awfulness are all examined with a feverish, typically unsubtle relish. However Elisabeth isn’t judged for her determination to create this second persona: The Substance repeatedly illustrates how highly effective misogynists like Harvey — the identify is unquestionably a reference to Weinstein — drive girls to such lengths.

Particular make-up results designer Pierre-Olivier Persin turns into the movie’s secret weapon in its second half. Not like different movies that declare to be body-horror, Fargeat delivers in spectacular and revolting trend, not simply conjuring recollections of David Cronenberg but in addition Brian De Palma. At 140 minutes, The Substance can really feel bloated and a tad repetitive, however the further runtime permits Fargeat to push her disturbing premise to its logical, humorous, completely disgusting finish level. 

Manufacturing firm: Working Title, Blacksmith, A Good Story

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Worldwide gross sales: The Match Manufacturing unit, gross sales@matchfactory.de 

Producers: Coralie Fargeat, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner

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Cinematography: Benjamin Kracun

Manufacturing design: Stanislas Reydellet

Modifying: Coralie Fargeat, Jerome Eltabet, Valentin Feron

Music: Raffertie

Important forged: Demi Moore, Margaret Qualley, Dennis Quaid

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