The Rental

The Rental (2020)

Being a fan of cinema I still get excited when new projects come around especially when someone recognizable decides to try something new. I always find it interesting when actors decide to step behind the camera and direct a film of their own. If there is one thing you take away from working different projects is that you are constantly learning and growing. Whether it be in your own craft or watching numerous others handle another specific task during filming. There is also a bond between a director and their actors which would only further the curiosity of wanting to try it for themselves. In that respect I was very curious how Dave Franco (Neighbors, 21 Jump Street, Now You See Me) would fair in his directorial debut The Rental starring his wife Alison Brie (Community, GLOW), Dan Stevens (Legion), Jeremy Allen White (Shameless) and Sheila Vand (Snowpiercer). The story revolves around two couples as they spend their weekend away at a secluded rental home.

I was impressed with Franco’s ability to set the mood in each scene. His timing in building up tense moments, creating an uneasy aura that makes you uncomfortable in your own skin and I am always shocked when a film can still get me to react to a good ol’ jump scare; Franco’s talent is evident throughout as a provocateur of emotion. The characters are well structured with each serving their own purpose but never seeming like a generic characterization. The tangled and silently fragmented relationships between all four are also a showing of Franco’s sense of storytelling as he wrote the screenplay alongside Joe Swanberg. All four actor’s performances were genuine and at times frightening but I truly felt Stevens and Vand in particularly stood out. The full range of emotions that each go through and the tensions built up around them make the film all that much more of a pressure cooker.

The swirl of emotions carried throughout unfortunately make for a sloppy narrative that is only able to sink its teeth in during the film’s final act. I felt the film had its turn to be a multitude of other stories from the unsettling home sitter Taylor played by Toby Huss (Halloween 2018, Halt and Catch Fire), a repressed jealously/drug fueled rampage, unnerving murder cover up but the final spin landed us on a border line slasher film with peeping tom/voyeuristic aspects. Franco has mentioned in interviews his intent was to show the comfortability society has taken in today’s age of private car rides and shared domiciles; when less than twenty years ago getting in cars with strangers and sleeping in an unknown person’s home was not imaginable. Our comfort in star ratings has blinded us to what we are actually doing and that is trusting complete strangers with aspects of our lives without question. In that respect I think Franco nailed it especially when using footage from the hidden cameras littered throughout the house; a technique I wish he used throughout the film instead of its closing moments.

There were moments throughout that I enjoyed but it was the inability to stick to one theme that lost me. When we are in full slasher killer mode I was all in but it was also too little too late as we were offered our finale with a rushed feeling of he is here and this is what he did…. but never why or who he is. A sequel is something Franco has also discussed but with no certainty and broad ideas being tossed around I just wish there was more closure behind The Rental’s sinister “man”.  Just to be clear though Franco’s directorial debut offers the uneasiness and unrest of using services such as Airbnb the same as Jaws made you think twice about the ocean and Psycho made you rethink buying clear shower curtains.


3 out of 5

Film is available now through Amazon Prime

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