Modern dating is a real killer. When you’re not fending off oafish Chads who reminisce about the good ole days when women wore dresses and embraced gendered stereotypes, you’re blocking dick pics, and falling prey to the charming good looks of men like Sebastian Stan.
Noa (Daisy Edgar-Jones) is the quintessential girl next door, just trying to make her way through life and maybe finding someone to fall in love with along the way. She has her best friend Mollie (JoJo T. Gibbs), but no family to speak of, which plays into the sharp turn her life takes when Steve (Sebastian Stan) strolls into her life on a late-night grocery store run. While Stan’s chiseled cheekbones and endearing dimples might put him head above most of the men on dating apps, Steve comes across as an everyman. He ingratiates himself into the realm of “safe men” by talking about his sister and niece, seducing Noa with cotton candy grapes—none of which could have hinted at his gruesome predilections.
FRESH features a bitingly witty screenplay by Lauryn Kahn, and Mimi Cave’s directorial debut features some absolutely ingenious visual allusions, cut scenes, and off-beat aesthetics. It’s hard not to compare FRESH to projects adjacent to its plot. Daisy Edgar-Jones has shades of Love in Netflix’s You, while Stan fully embodies the alluring seduction of Patrick Bateman’s sinister antics in Mary Harron’s American Psycho.
The American Psycho connection is unmissable, with a delightfully insane soundtrack featured in FRESH. While no sequence can ever fully outmatch Bateman’s “Hip to Be Square” mayhem, Stan gives Christian Bale a run for his money with a hypnotically chaotic performance in the second act of the film. His performance becomes even more impressive as the final act closes in and he treads this unnerving line of normalizing the abnormal with smug charm. You never know if you should laugh at his dreadful puns or run.
Cave takes a new approach to the cold open, playing out forty-five minutes of build-up and action before the title ever appears on the screen. Its placement is ingenious, arriving right as the meet-cute turns into a meat-cute. Beyond the American Psycho comparison, FRESH pulls from other off-beat horror classics so succinctly, blending them all together and serving them up for slow-burn horror fans to really feast on. Cave captures the intensity and uneasiness of the film through extreme close-ups, focusing on mouths and eyes while intercutting with inserts that really drive home the plot.
At times, FRESH can be a little messy, but the plot never really waivers. Kahn’s screenplay is very narrative-driven, focusing in on Noa and Steve, with a few characters that circle their orbit. The commentary is neatly delivered, letting audiences pick up what it's putting down without spoon-feeding it to them. There are allusions to the tastes of the ultrarich, the vicious dating culture, and the agency that is often stripped away from women’s bodies. It’s all very engagingly deployed and strengthens the core plot being played out.
FRESH is deliciously sinister and delectably unhinged. Sebastian Stan has never been more sizzlingly hot and Daisy Edgar-Jones gives a raw, unguarded, and toothsome performance. There is no doubt in my mind that FRESH is going to be bandying a Certified Fresh banner when it arrives on Hulu next March. This one is for the American Psycho-loving girlies and we’ve been long overdue for another one written with the female gaze in mind.
FRESH premiered at Sundance this week and is set to premiere on Hulu on March 4th.
This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Maggie Lovitt is the Managing Editor of Entertainment at Wealth of Geeks where she covers her favorite topics: Star Wars and pop culture nerdery. She is also a freelance writer and News Editor at Collider. She has had bylines at Inverse, Polygon, and Dorkside of the Force. She is also a member of the Hollywood Critics Association.
When she is not covering entertainment news, she can be found on one of her numerous podcasts or on her YouTube channel. In her free time, she is also a novelist, screenwriter, actor, and member of the Screen Actors Guild.