‘Fresh’ Review – A Modern Cult Classic | Sundance 2022

Without exaggeration, Fresh feels destined for cult classic status. With a premise so batshit insane brought to life by some of today’s most promising talent, the movie has so much going for it right off the bat. However, it’s within director Mimi Cave’s inspired execution that Fresh finds a deeper purpose for all of its violence and disturbing depictions – not just shock and awe for the sake of ridiculous B-movie antics, but brutally honest storytelling in order to get a very relevant point across. And yet, one of the most radiating qualities of the film is just how wild and hilariously dark it can be. Like Get Out before it, Fresh fully embraces its ridiculous nature to serve a resonate dish with some killer fun on the side.

It truly is best to go into Fresh knowing as little as possible, thus the need to compare it to something like Get Out to give at least some kind of idea of what you’re in for. Though this comparison is still surface level at best, other than both films being topical with effective dark humor and, more notably, they don’t think twice about going there in service of their weighty themes. Just know that Fresh all starts when the down on her luck Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) finally hits her stride in the modern dating world. After endlessly swiping left on dating apps, and having incredibly shitty experiences with the few that she does swipe right, she finally meets someone genuine in-person while on a late-night grocery run. Steve (Sebastian Stan) is a charming schmuck who looks well-off enough, but as they continue their relationship in a cute, clichéd rom-com kind of way, things take an absolutely demented turn.

Thrillers or horror films with similar premises probably seem like they come out so often now, given the rise in public social awareness towards gender dynamics and male abuse over the last decade. Some of these examples have been met with more attention than others, but no matter how many times you think you’ve seen this story, you haven’t seen something as far-out as Fresh, at least not on this level of craft and recognizable backing (Legendary, Searchlight Pictures, and Adam McKay’s own production company all being attached). By showing prowess and loads of personality, Mimi Cave establishes herself as a dynamic voice to watch in the incoming years. She wastes no time in setting up engaging visuals and motifs – if anything, the frame is almost never dull; it exudes a certain energy that Cave easily manipulates on a whim as the film goes through its many twists and turns.

Daisy Edgar-Jones in ‘Fresh’ courtesy of Searchlight

Most of all, Cave brings a refreshing (no pun intended) perspective to a line of films that see women go through hell and back. This is, of course, with the help of Lauryn Kahn’s layered script. Without touching upon spoilers, the scenarios presented in Fresh are often pushed to inherently vile and disturbing limits. And as previously mentioned, there have been other recent horror/thrillers that focus on misogyny and toxic masculinity. But for a film that goes pretty far with its absurd concept, it never feels too overbearing or in very poor taste. This is thanks to how Cave frames abuse, both mental and physical, and how the film is much more about female perseverance than just guts and gore. Those shocking images are present and are crazy enough to make your jaw drop, though Cave’s influence is always felt throughout, making it easier to process.

This is also seen with the entire cast, who all evidently see this greater vision eye-to-eye and operate on that intuition. Daisy Edgar-Jones brings a harsh realness to her performance, she gives nothing but the truth and it gives the film a necessary emotional anchor when the happenings around her are too horrifying to say. Sebastian Stan continues to completely surprise when given the chance, the way he can switch back and forth between personas makes for some mad entertainment, even if you know he’s up to no good. You’ll definitely walk away wanting to see Daisy and Stan take on more eccentric, perhaps even bizarre roles, especially if they’re totally unpredictable like seen here.

If there’s any weak point to Fresh it would be its final homestretch, where things start to wrap up quickly before its near 2-hour length starts to run completely dry. This runtime is somewhat warranted, given that events don’t really take off until after the opening credits roll a full 30 minutes into the movie – a bold move that is just so satisfying to see pulled off to great effect. You could also call Fresh perhaps too brash in its social commentary. To counter that, with a movie this extreme, where’s the fun in holding back? Out of everything being shown on-screen, it seems a bit silly to really nitpick whether certain things are too “on the nose” or not. Like a true midnight movie, you’re either fully on board or not at all.

In her radical feature debut, Mimi Cave shows a fondness for genre films while delivering vital themes on gender and abuse. Some may call it “timely,” although these topics have been quite relevant for as long as many of us can remember. This thematic weight is sure to create plenty of conversations as more people discover Fresh over time, you can practically already feel a long-lasting legacy of sorts in the works – for the right audience, of course. The fact that a film this abrasive and steeped in genre, from a female perspective, can exist in such a large space makes it a special treat. Hopefully, this won’t be the last.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Fresh premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The film debuts on Hulu March 4

Read more from Sundance 2022 here!

Follow Managing Editor Andrew J. Salazar on Twitter: @AndrewJ626

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