With the distinct air of an artist desperate to cobble together a personal story out of some old rusty parts, III is a film absolutely devoid of inspiration that nevertheless spills over with aspiration. Ever since Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, pairing an album release with a film to has become something of a shorthand for marking the project as Significant — and the Lumineers’ new visual album is nothing if not self-important. The Kevin Phillips directed feature sets its sights no higher than stringing together a coherent, if nonlinear, narrative about a family beset by the plague of addiction, a literal interpretation of the album that inspired it. Phillips employs every hoary addiction cliche, and dresses the visuals of his film up with aspect ratio changes and energetic camerawork that beg to be taken seriously. This only makes every shot more ridiculous. A phantasmagoric CGI sequence of thousands of sperm racing towards an egg after a round of coked-out phone-booth sex is only the fourth or fifth most risible image in a film that also wants to wring gravity out of a baby sipping vodka. Instead of giving voice to the addicts at its center, III resorts to lurid objectification, rendering the Sparks family as pitiable constructs rather than people. While the Sparks men are only objects for either ire or empathy, the women are unlucky enough to be sexualized as often as not. But for all the film’s ills, its fatal flaw is still… the Lumineers, who sound, as they always have, like the results of a lab experiment engineered to strip Mumford & Sons of their meager stores of personality.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2019 | Dispatch 3.