If you saw Netflix's recent "The Tinder Swindler" and thought it was unsettling, then just wait until you get a load of "Fresh." This sharp, witty and downright shocking horror-comedy caused jaws to drop when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2022, and now all of us can share in the exasperation as it lands on Hulu this Friday.
"Fresh" comes from first-time feature-film director Mimi Cave, from a script by relatively unknown scribe, Lauryn Kahn. Both make a lasting impact, but maybe not as much as their breakthrough, stand-out star, 23-year-old Daisy Edgar-Jones, who is absolutely phenomenal in the lead role.
When we first meet Noa (Edgar-Jones), she is swiping left on a random dating app, and navigating the hellish waters that all single people know and loathe. She has a catastrophic date with Chad (Brett Dier) and is fairly certain that she will live life alone. And that's OK by the way, because Noa is a strong, independent woman, with a super-supportive best friend in Mollie (Jojo T. Gibbs).
But her life gets up-ended when she runs in to a cute guy at the grocery store of all places. Steve (a never-been-better Sebastian Stan) is handsome, charming and somewhat dorky, and the vibe works on Noa. She slowly decides that she likes his company, they hook up and soon after Steve invites her on a remote adventure to a romantic cabin in the woods.
That's when "Fresh" takes a hard turn, and I do mean HARD. Yes, Mollie - and even to some extent, Noa - see some red flags, but Noa's relationship and attraction to Steve is plausible and realistic. Should she go on a such a date with a guy she just met? Probably not. And once you see where things lead, that answer will change to OH MY GOD OF COURSE NOT.
To spoil where things go from there would undercut the impact of the film, but it's turns are much more than a gimmick. To generalize things, let's just say that Steve turns out to not be who Noa thought he was. The title sequence in fact, comes about 30 minutes into the film, and the reason is mostly because that's when the film really begins.
Soon after the revelation is revealed, things bog down just a bit before ramping back up towards the end. But this is a delicious - OK, that's the wrong choice of words - a fascinatingly entertaining movie that never judges or demonizes its characters, despite the incredibly horrific things that some of them may choose to do. It's so bold that it even leaves a few story threads untouched, as if to suggest that there may be future chapters in the "Fresh" universe...a notion that I for one, would eat up in a heartbeat.
The writing is strong, the laughs and plenty and the shocks are delivered with precision. There's also more than one dance sequences as well as an unforgettable kitchen montage scene with a fabulously loose Sebastian Stan. None of this works though without the stellar performances from Edgar-Jones (as well as Stan), not to mention the large contributions from the small supporting players.
"Fresh" is best if you go into it without knowing too much about it, but it'd be reckless to suggest that you shouldn't also brace yourself for all possibilities. This is definitely an acquired taste that will last with me for a very, very long time.
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 54 minutes.
Starring: Daisy Edgar-Jones, Sebastian Stan, Jojo T. Gibbs, Andrea Bang.
Directed by Mimi Cave (feature-film directorial debut).
"Fresh" is available to stream on Hulu on Friday, March 4th, 2022.
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