Movie review: 'Kinds of Kindness' loses good will

Emma Stone stars in "Kinds of Kindness." Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures
1 of 5 | Emma Stone stars in "Kinds of Kindness." Photo courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

LOS ANGELES, June 17 (UPI) -- Emma Stone's latest collaboration with director Yorgos Lanthimos, Kinds of Kindness, starts strong but sags irrevocably halfway through. That it is their longest collaboration, its length - 165 minutes - suggests a kind of self-indulgence that hurts the narrative and themes.

Kinds of Kindness tells three separate stories. Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margot Qualley, Hong Chau and Mamoudou Athie each play different characters in each story.


In the first story, Robert (Plemons) works for Raymond (Dafoe), but his only job seems to be following Raymond's instructions about what to eat, read and when to have intercourse with his wife (Chau). The presumption is that Raymond knows best.

This intriguingly bizarre story leads the viewer to follow along a system established before the movie began. It unravels intriguing elements of Raymond's control, with some macabre, violent humor.


In the second story, Daniel (Plemons) is a police officer. His wife, Liz (Stone), has been missing and is found on an island after a shipwreck.

This story interrupts the reunion to show Daniel and Liz's sexual escapades with another couple (Athie and Qualley). It is intentionally confrontational, but unlike Poor Things, which was profoundly about female sexual liberation, here it is largely irrelevant to the story.

Daniel grows suspicious of Liz's uncharacteristic new behaviors upon her return, but it takes way too long to play out. None of these stories needs to be more than 30 minutes to get to the point.

That each story is longer than the last renders the second two meandering and lethargic. In the third story, Emily (Stone) and Andrew (Plemons) interview women they hope will present the power to bring the dead back to life.

Emily and Andrew are also in a sex cult with Omi (Dafoe) and Aka (Chau), which gets threatened by a nonconsensual sexual encounter. This subplot also allows sexual exploration that is a complete distraction from the plot.


To its credit, the stories incorporate bisexual polyamory, so it's not all heteronormative. It is all superfluous still.

Even without the detours into the sex club, the third story takes way too long for Emily and Andrew to meet their candidates for resurrection. These are fairly simple stories and stretching them out shows how little substance they had to begin with.

The story about Liz being changed after an accident is a cliche. The story about finding a real-life Lazarus could be interesting, but it's just a series of awkward interviews followed by some gratuitous sex and sexual violence.

The title must be ironic. The first story could be seen as a manipulative sort of kindness, but the second two are blatantly hostile stories.

Maintaining the same cast for every story is a unique approach to an anthology film. Most anthologies, like Short Cuts or Creepshow, have a different cast for each story, which allows those films to attract A-list stars for short roles.

Each of Kinds of Kindness's stories concludes with a credits list. Lanthimos found roles for each actor in each story, even though Stone is a mysterious supporting role in the first and Athie only has a small role as a morgue orderly in the third.


Ultimately, Kinds of Kindness fails to solve the problem most anthology films have. There aren't enough good stories for a whole movie, and this really only has one.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo attend 'Poor Things' premiere in NYC

Stars Emma Stone (R) and Mark Ruffalo arrive on the red carpet at the premiere of "Poor Things" at the DGA Theater in New York City on December 6, 2023. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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