A Bigger Splash

There is a delicious thrill in watching a completely dialed-in performer tackle a truly larger-than-life character, one of those outsized personalities that can dominate a story, crowding out others, even the presumed protagonists.

There is a delicious thrill in watching a completely dialed-in performer tackle a truly larger-than-life character, one of those outsized personalities that can dominate a story, crowding out others, even the presumed protagonists. Ralph Fiennes has been twice nominated for Academy Awards, but even as the Nazi camp commandant in Schindler’s List, a role requiring him to indulge in unspeakable evil, he rarely lets loose, pushing the pedal all the way to the floor. He leaves us wanting more, whether it is demonic depravity or romantic passion. Which makes his Harry Hawkes, in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, such a spellbinding treat. Harry is an impresario who sees himself as the only story, the greatest life ever committed on God’s green Earth. We’ve never seen anything like Harry, especially from Fiennes, and we can only sit back and wait for him to burn through the narrative and character. He’s a planet crashing into a man-made lake, not creating “a bigger splash” so much as obliterating the body of water. And for him to do so while sharing the frame with Tilda Swinton and Matthias Schoenaerts makes the performance even more stunning a feat. (Opens Friday at Esquire Theatre) (R) Grade: A (For a full-length review, visit terrencetodd.com.)

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