If director David Raboy added just one scene at the beginning of “The Giant”, one where all of its characters eat a handful of magic mushrooms or got high on some heavy drugs, his directorial debut could make sense. Unfortunately, everyone’s here pretty sober.
“The Giant” finds a soon-to-be-graduate student Charlotte (Odessa Young), spend her last summer in a shithole hometown. As most teens do, she drinks booze, swims half-naked in a lake, and… copes with a heart-breaking trauma. What’s eating the young girl’s mind is a recent loss of her mother and a sudden disappearance of her ex-boyfriend, Joe (Ben Schnetzer). However, Joe unexpectedly re-emerges just when Charlotte comes home.
Mismatched pieces build David Raboy’s chaotic debut
One of the locals tells Charlotte that her summer is all about dancing and having fun, but it actually might the saddest, darkest and bleak end of school ever captured on screen. But not in a dark-but-cool way.
Raboy’s in love with deep blacks and darkness, and develops a peculiar affection for flickering, blurry drops of light and other colours. The cinematography, led by Eric Yue, therefore conceives a special kind of dreary arthouse, experienced like an epilepsy attack. Ill-inspired monotony of darker shades is brutally ripped apart by glimpses that eyes can hardly focus on, often framed in deep zoom-ins.
Both Raboy and Rue clearly strived for an oneiric, atmosphere straight from Nicolas Winding Refn’s films or even more recent “Mandy”. However, none of them had the craft that’s been put into their idols’ work.
That’s just one issue with the way Rue’s camera operates.
As it closes on faces and other details, it also causes “The Giant” to feel either impossible to decipher or uncomfortably personal. The visual direction brings little value to what Raboy aspires to say. More often than helps, it distracts.
Such a close-up perspective could work if the characters were painted with a decent resemblance to reality. But Charlotte represents a unique kind of teenage drama queen, whose Instagram-ready half-fainting grimace wears off after half an hour of her screen time. That lack of charisma is embed in each and every character present in “The Giant”. People appear as see-through ghosts, making less and less impact on the audience with each consecutive appearance.
This state of things, at least partially, is credited to an awful quality of dialogue in the film.
Charlotte’s pseudo-philosphical mumblings from voice-over, as well as artificial conversations between horny teenagers, blend into a stream of mumbo jumbo that serves nobody and pushes the story nowhere. With all the disturbing things going on – dead girls, a killer on the loose – “The Giant” is obscurely nonchalant about it, trying to turn Paulo Coelho’s level of philosophy into a dark thriller.
At the end of the day, you’ll quickly lose the track of what’s going on here, who’s doing what and what was “The Giant” about. Thankfully, Raboy has no clear idea either, which he cements by the laziest ending possible.
The Giant (2019) – Culturally Loved or Hated?
The only reasonable argument in favour of experiencing “The Giant” would be experiencing a total mess on your own. But a cinematic mess can also be entertaining – like Michael Bay’s roughhouse movies with no real plot. “The Giant” is less than mundane in its lack of integrity and vision, but most importantly, it is also far form enjoyable.
Throughout the film, Charlotte and other teens keep on wondering whether this entire killing season is a dream or not. The audience can be sure about it – “The Giant” is a nightmare.
The Giant (2019)
Dir. David Raboy
Hate Grade: 7/10
Overal evaluation: Debuting director David Raboy is absorbed by pieces of filmmaking separately, therefore losing any coherent structure in between them. More than that, these fragments alone are nowhere near even decent craft.
Watched at the American Film Festival in Wrocław.