The Uninvited (2024)

The Uninvited Review

The Uninvited

The Uninvited Review: Hollywood Party Exposes Who’s Left Out

Nadia Conners’ clever insider drama starring Walton Goggins, Elizabeth Reaser and Pedro Pascal turns a Hollywood bash into a hard look at who the industry neglects.

As its title suggests, there’s a limited guest list in “The Uninvited,” a keen critique of Hollywood that will play best to the insider set that Rose (Elizabeth Reaser) and Sammy Wright (Walton Goggins) welcome into their gated villa in the hills.

When throwing a party meant to impress, writer-director Nadia Conners clearly knows of what she speaks. It isn’t hard to imagine that the real-life wife of Goggins, whose career has only thrived more as he’s gotten older, has heard something similar to the voicemail left for Rose in the early moments of Conners’ directorial debut. The message informs the actress that she’s now too old to play the mother of a 6-year-old when she’s barely into her 40s. (Never mind that her own son Wilder is around that age.) Yet unlike Conners, no one has probably told Rose that she might make a good director after begrudgingly accepting the role of homemaker, frantically doting over every detail in staging a party for her manager husband’s star client Gerald (Rufus Sewell), putting out any potential fire before it happens.

The small soirée ostensibly serves to welcome Gerald back from directing his latest film abroad but there’s much more on Sammy’s plate than crossing his fingers for his business partner. While also hoping Delia sticks with him through Italian premiere season after learning how seductive they can be while making movies overseas together, he realizes at this point he can’t even act like it would bother him all that much if Lucien showed up later tonight; dude became one helluva movie star since breaking up with Rose and his commission alone might set Sammy for life.

But even Sammy could not have predicted what happens next: Helen (Lois Smith), a nonagenarian who claims this house was once hers, arrives on their doorstep. Clearly lost — at first mistaking Sammy for her late husband Helen eventually asks to use the bathroom, and Rose doesn’t think twice about letting her in. Sammy, however, has a problem with this the first of many doors that Conners sees as closed to women of a certain age.

“The Uninvited” was originally developed as a play, and though visually it does not feel like one DP Robert Leitzell elegantly uses wide framing to suggest confinement with color rather than space there are times when it’s hard to hide its stage origins. There are long monologues and overdetermined dialogue; at one point Helen is effectively sitting in the living room while the party goes on around her, serving mostly as an audience for Rose and Sammy’s venting after they’ve spent the last half-hour taking turns hosting.

Although Conners is not shy about forcing related information into conversations that do not fit, and somewhat diluted by the good supporting actors involved, this movie has a subtle large-scale design. Outdated ideas of age and gender have obviously hurt Rose, but they’re symptomatic of the same system Sammy is enslaved to. There’s as much to be gained from having to ask yourself why you put yourself through it as much who you are really doing it for when two people go through the motions of a party that neither one wants to be at.

But that question still lingers when thinking about “The Uninvited” in terms of more than just film and TV industry professionals. A $200 shot of whiskey or a party photographer hired to take pictures of people’s auras might play outside Los Angeles, but the cultural hyper-specificity can be insular. However, when there may be no better industry at which to wag issues around ageism, others will see themselves if Rose looks upon her personal life as a consolation prize for her thwarted professional aspirations. It’s a filmmaker’s self-assuredness that one is now glad Conners doesn’t have to make for herself.

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