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Jason's Review of Vivarium 2019 ★★½

Vivarium 2019 ★★½

Watched May 20, 2020

I really wanted to love this, because I really like both of the lead actors, and I love simple-yet-freaky Twilight-Zone-style premises. In this case, Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg play a young couple looking for a house who are led into an eerie housing development full of empty houses that look exactly the same (by an equally eerie real estate agent), and are subsequently unable to find their way out. So far, so good. The second act is pretty good, too. It reminded me of movies I enjoy like CUBE and CABIN IN THE WOODS, and of books I've enjoyed like Samuel Delaney's DHALGREN and Mark Z. Danielewski's HOUSE OF LEAVES in the way it starts to develop the impossible physics of their predicament. It's hard to talk about more without getting into spoilers, so I'll just say that sadly, after an intriguing first half, it fails to lead anywhere that I found satisfying, neither emotionally nor intellectually (although it's slightly more successful in the latter sense, but not by a whole lot). The setup does have a punchline, but it's not a satisfying one that makes much sense (not even by its own set of rules). It's got a great premise, some interesting visuals, and a very solid performance by Poots (whose character has more layers than Eisenberg's), but ultimately I just didn't enjoy it much.

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