July 8th, 2020
MOVIE: GUEST OF HONOUR
STARRING: DAVID THEWLIS; LAYSLA DE OLIVEIRA; LUKE WILSON
DIRECTED BY: ATOM EGOYAN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
You can’t accuse writer/director Atom Egoyan for being unoriginal, his films are his own spin of drama, and if he is going to miss the mark, he is doing it on his own terms. The directors newest work, Guest of Honour is one big strange miss. The type of movie you recommend only because it’s odd that it was made at all. David Thewlis is the lead, playing an uptight health code inspector named Jim. He takes his job seriously, inspecting every corner of the restaurant, and is never afraid to wield his power to fail a restaurant for even the slightest problem. That stubbornness has been passed on to his daughter Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira), who we meet having a conversation with Father Greg (Luke Wilson) to discuss the funeral arrangements for her dad. The narrative takes place in various flashbacks and flashforwards, introducing us to what brought us to this moment of Jim’s death and why his daughter dislikes him so much. It’s a strange drama of family dysfunction that does not go far enough. Instead, Guest of Honour left me feeling like a cold meal sitting in the sink.
To refresh you about who the director Atom Egoyan is, he is a two-time Oscar nominee and made a film a few years back called Remember, starring Christopher Plummer. In that, Plummer was a man searching for the Nazi relatives of the family that killed his parents at Auschwitz. It was a movie that annoyed me more than anything, dealing with themes of memory, and how our time can distort reality. Guest of Honour is focusing on similar traits, with the majority of the story told from Veronica’s perspective, and her rehashing the circumstances that put her in prison for thirteen years. Working as the conductor of a school band, she was wrongfully convicted of a relationship with one of her students, which she didn’t put up a fight against. It is her childhood, the death of her mother, and her father’s relationship with her piano teacher that gives us answers to why Veronica would rather stay in prison instead of spend a day with her dad. It also might be the answer to why her father is such an eccentric person in the first place.
Prior to viewing it, I was actually interested in seeing Guest of Honour. David Thewlis is a solid and selfless actor. He’s memorable for his work in the Harry Potter films and his villain turn in Wonder Woman. He deserves lead roles and characters that have this kind of depth. Last week, Hirokazu Koreeda’s The Truth did everything right that Guest of Honour does wrong. It was the perfect mixture of family members, some arrogant, longing for a connection, and others on the outside looking into a situation. Guest of Honour has not a single character to care about or an understanding of what drives a story. And when the script takes stranger turns when Jim uses his position to enact revenge on others, including restaurant owners that don’t bend to his power, things do not deliver answers we are hoping for.
The long and short of it is that Guest of Honour is a big miss. Egoyan has made successful films such as The Sweet Hereafter, The Captive, and Chloe, a movie that I think is fantastic. This is just a drama that is stuck in the mud with the wheels spinning. The acting highlight is from Laysla De Oliveira, who is actually given emotional moments, but the only actor that lucks out in Guest of Honour is Luke Wilson. He just has to sit there and pretend to care about this boring story. I take it back, even that must have been hard to do.
Written by: Leo Brady