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‘Coup!’ Review: Peter Sarsgaard Leads a Jaunty Class-War Comedy

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That perky exclamation level units the tone for “Coup!,” a narrative of homicide, class battle, One P.c entitlement and a world pandemic that nonetheless unfolds with all of the keen, scrappy power of an off-Broadway musical, minus a lot of the songs. The pandemic in query is just not the one you’re considering of — Austin Stark and Joseph Schuman’s puckish comedian thriller unfolds in opposition to the dire backdrop of the 1918 Spanish Flu — but it surely additionally kind of is, as its examine of rich exceptionalism in a time of nationwide disaster is clearly meant to chime with newer reminiscences of regimented distancing and combined security messages from on excessive. 

Starring Peter Sarsgaard as a wily cook dinner coming into the quarantined property of Billy Magnussen’s upper-class journalist — and benefiting from their isolation to start out a servant rebellion — that is fast, nippy leisure that raises loads of sociopolitical speaking factors with out digging too deep into any of them. The closing movie of this 12 months’s Venice Days sidebar, “Coup!” even cultivates a faint air of grownup pantomime with its confined setting and ripe performances — notably from the wild-haired, hoop-earringed Sarsgaard, having a grand previous time in a flamboyant position that’s fairly the alternative of his extra distinguished, prize-winning Venice flip in Michel Franco’s solemn “Memory.”

Magnussen, in the meantime, continues to be possessed of these frostily good-looking options that casting administrators are loath to think about for heroic leads — and duly performs each “Coup!’s” villain and its patsy, as hoity-toity nationwide newspaper columnist Jay Horton, whose performatively progressive politics are considerably at odds along with his huge inherited fortune. As America suffers legions of deaths and grim financial downturn because the flu rages on, Horton receives a lot popularity of his intrepid reporting from the city frontlines of the epidemic, as he candidly criticises the Wilson administration for its insufficient safety of the folks.

There’s only one drawback: Horton isn’t wherever close to the hazard zone, as an alternative fabricating his supposedly first-hand dispatches from the protection of his walled-off nation mansion on New York’s Egg Island. There, a number of servants (or workers, as their employers oh-so-magnanimously insists on calling them) attend to the wants of Horton, his spouse Julie (Sarah Gadon) and their two kids, whereas residing in comparatively spartan quarters downhill. When — catastrophe! — the Hortons’ private vegetarian chef succumbs to the flu, their advert for a substitute is answered by itinerant Southern rascal Floyd Monk (Sarsgaard), launched vacating his former premises with some relish, and assuming the ID of the slain physique beside him, setting the movie’s driving thriller effectively in movement.

Arriving at Egg Island sporting bohemian apparel and a distinctly non-deferent angle, Monk swiftly arouses the suspicions of Horton and his stuffy, servile housekeeper Mrs. McMurray (Kristine Nielsen). Julie and the youngsters, nevertheless, are charmed by his rakish eccentricities, and his maintain on them — akin to a Scotch-drinking, poker-playing, deer-hunting Mary Poppins — permits him to take beforehand forbidden liberties along with his place, inspiring his downtrodden colleagues, Black maid Mrs. Tidwell (Skye P. Marshall) and Turkish valet Kaan (Faran Tahir), to observe go well with. Quickly sufficient, to Horton’s huffy consternation, Monk has moved into the mansion, is utilizing the household’s indoor pool and is eyeing up Julie, all whereas demanding doubled wages; in the meantime, the journalist’s skilled standing can also be threatened, his lie more and more prone to publicity.

The following alpha-male face-off between grasp and insurgent is drawn in broad, enjoyably cartoonish strokes: On this case, each males have a powerful mustache to twirl. But when “Coup!” is unsubtle, its consequence isn’t precisely predictable, whereas its politics are intriguingly elusive. Horton’s slimy champagne socialism could also be a simple satirical goal, however Monk seems to be a fairly self-serving man of the folks; a method or one other, as Mrs. Tidwell bitterly notes, the servant class can by no means emerge triumphant. Viewers looking for to map the movie’s pandemic portrayal onto current occasions, in the meantime, gained’t discover any unambiguously sympathetic stance between Horton’s hypocritical public curiosity and Monk’s trace of anti-lockdown individualism. 

All of it arguably evens out right into a pointed allegorical jab on the privileged American courses who advocated for a spirit of extreme nationwide sacrifice throughout COVID whereas sheltering in plush consolation — and if that’s the case, honest sufficient. However over and above such implied messaging, “Coup!” capabilities first as a romp: fleet and frisky at simply 97 minutes, tidily however not ostentatiously crafted, and in thrall to the pleasurably low-stakes sport of watching one scoundrel outwit one other. Right here, even the final man standing is hardly a winner.

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