Release Date: 05/19/23 [Cinemas]
Genre: Drama. Thriller.
"Follows a dominatrix and Hal, her wealthy client, and the disaster that ensues when Hal tries to end their relationship."
OUR MOVIE REVIEW:
Now who says movies aren't sexy anymore? Well, at times, they still very much aren't. Even rated-R movies, it feels like we're experiencing less and less spice on the silver screen, and I'm not even talking about just ogling at people as if they're objects; I'm talking about that unimaginable jolt of electricity you get when two very attractive and charismatic people share are in frame together, and you can cut that sexual tension with a dull knife. In Zachary Wigon's Sanctuary, we get that jolt as soon as Margaret Qualey and Christopher Abbott first share the frame in the film, and it never gets any less electrifying. Although it feels like Wigon is trying to jungle a lot for this kind of film, Sanctuary is a gut-busting sex comedy that plays with such inventive camera work and set design, but it also offers some of the best we've ever seen from Qualey and Abbott.
Abbott stars as Hal, a soon-to-be CEO of a Hotel chain who lays off his dominatrix, Rebecca (Qualley), however, she fights to remain a part of his routine. Qualley and Abbott make Sancuary absolute psycho-sexual warfare. We find out more and more about their characters and their relationship becomes a commentary about class, or maybe perhaps even perhaps the modern America workforce. Hal's grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth and has pretty much coasted by, but Rebecca is the opposite, having to constantly look after herself because no one else would. As they find out more about each other, they dig deeper and deeper into the psycho-sexual warfare trying to drive each other absolutely mad. They're also absolutely hilarious. Their physicality really adds to the performances here, and with this being a sex comedy, the film is able to play around with their physicality that is both sexy and hysterical.
These are such layered performances, too. Their collaboration with Wigon on the script makes us really question what the characters thought about the scene before, and they'll do or say something brief that concretely changes our viewpoint about what previously followed. However, I must say that towards the latter half of the film, it approaches an ending I'm not entirely sure it earns. I like the idea the ending presents, however, the film before it just barely leans into this idea. With Sanctuary being such a short film - set in one location as well - it feels like the ideas in the ending could have steeped a bit more in the beef of the film, though it still ends on a satisfying note despite feeling somewhat jarring.
Wigon's directing is really playful here. As this is set in one location, here he really makes the set design and the camera work soar here. The camera almost makes us feel like a fly on the wall, and though we never see ANY nudity from Abbott and Qualley, it still manages to make those two look amazing here. The camera here is super suggestive with their bodies, leading up to jokes or even shocking reveals, and it maybe ends up being my favorite aspect about this film.
Sanctuary, I think, is a great evolution of the sex comedy. It's not only funny and sexy, but it's thrilling, and kind of messed up. It's this great psycho-sexual case study on class and the workforce in this remote BDSM setting, and in return we also get career highlights from Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualey. Definitely 2023's spiciest film yet.