Parents' Guide to

The Square

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Language, sex, violence in award-winning dark comedy.

Movie R 2017 142 minutes
The Square Poster Image

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This cutting dark comedy could easily have been called The Bubble instead. Like writer/director Ruben Ostlund's earlier film, the multiple award-winning Force Majeure, The Square -- which has already won the Palme D'Or at Cannes and is Sweden's official entry for the 90th Academy Awards -- examines the difference between the values we say that we have and our actual actions when under pressure (or, put another way, what we believe about ourselves vs. what is true about ourselves). Perhaps Ostlund chose the world of modern art because its works can be low-hanging fruit, ripe for satire. Whatever the reason, the often-opaque rules and values of that setting make good fodder for a story in which the comfortable find themselves afflicted and people accustomed to the absurd must confront the real-world consequences of their actions. Though even that description is too concrete for The Square, which is hardly a morality play. Although some actions in the film are extraordinarily foolish, the garden-variety foolishness of other actions can be hard to separate out -- it's like the saying about the frog sitting in a pot of water that slowly gets hotter; by the time it notices it's boiling, it's too late.

As powerful art curator Christian, Bang conveys a mix of good intentions and smug detachment. He's not exactly a bad person, but neither is he exactly good -- like most of us. He navigates the oddities of the modern-art scene with aplomb -- for example, when he has to interpret his own website's overly wordy text during an interview, or in his embrace of exhibits that might seem strange to some. He's totally confident in his world. But outside, his actions reveal selfishness and shortsightedness that bring him right down to Earth. West is comically underused (intentionally, perhaps) as a respected artist, Moss is strong as a journalist who tests Christian's boundaries, and movement master Notary plays an artist whose work tests everyone's boundaries. The film's humor generally comes from discomfort; it's no laugh-out-loud riot.

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