Friday, April 15, 2022

Chariot, with John Malkovich

Everyone who lives at The Lafayette has their thing. Harrison Hardy’s oddity is a recurring dream that his childhood home had an attic, when it really didn’t. It sounds pretty minor, but after dreaming it over 4,000 times, it is starting to bother him. Dr. Karn, his new sleep specialist, shouldn’t inspire confidence, but Hardy goes to him for treatment anyway in screenwriter-director Adam Sigal’s Chariot, which opens today in New York.

Nobody Hardy previously consulted with could figure out his subconscious hang-up, but Karn immediately believes he has a handle on it. He just needs Hardy to come back for a little more counseling, before moving forward with the treatment. He really ought to know, since we are clearly led to suspect the strange doctor is somehow involved in whatever is going on. A lot of the film’s publicity and marketing materials totally give the big secret away, so google
Chariot carefully.

While waiting for his cure, Hardy starts to meet the other residents of the Lafayette, including Maria Deschaines, an actress with whom he feels an immediate connection. In fact, after he starts seeing her, his dream starts to progress a little further, up into the nonexistent attic.

either needed to be simpler or considerably more complex. Instead, we just get a handful of people trying desperately to act mysterious and weird. For instance, Scout-Taylor Compton plays a pretty young resident, who supposedly also has the spirit of a crass fiftysomething Englishman coexisting inside her. She has a lot of screentime, but her character[s] have little bearing on the narrative.

Of course, John Malkovich is always game to loudly act twitchy and arrogant. He comes to play as a Dr. Karn, but the tacky red wig he inexplicably wears is beneath his dignity. Thomas Mann is maybe a bit too reserved as Hardy, but somehow, to her credit, Rosa Salazar manages to find the right level of eccentricity for Deschaines that is necessarily quirky, but not suspiciously off-putting.

Frankly, Sigal lets a number of potentially interesting ideas die on the vine, like the hinted-at suggestion that the Lafayette is some kind of cosmic-supernatural equivalent of the Continental sanctuary hotel in the John Wick movies. There are just a lot of pieces that don’t fit. Pretty much a mess,
Chariot is not recommended when it opens today (4/15) in New York, at the Cinema Village.