Film Review: The Rental (2020)

If you have a trust issues with the people who own those weekend house rentals or AirBnB then The Rental will do nothing to dampen those fears. Written by mumblecore alumni Joe Swanberg along with Dave Franco who also takes the reins as the director.

Charlie (Stevens) and Michelle (Brie) along with Charlie’s brother Josh (White) and his girlfriend Mina (Vand), who is also Charlie’s work partner, are all going on a weekend trip. The foursome (and a very cute dog) make their way up to the rental house. After meeting the owner of the titular house and after some awkwardness and some more than just casual racism directed at Mina, the party can begin. As the night wears on, some secrets are revealed and Charlie and Mina prove that having unsaid feelings and drugs, don’t help you make the best decisions.

A sheepish and hungover Charlie and Mina stay behind whilst Michelle and Josh take off to do a hiking trip. As Charlie and Mina discuss what to do about their betrayal, they stumble upon a hidden camera in the shower. Someone is watching them but who? Is it the owner? Someone else? These questions and the couples secrets all slowly rise as the group realizes they may not be the only people there.

The film takes advantage of the secluded location, making you acutely aware that anyone who is there, is there by choice. Franco is assured behind the camera, he frames most of the shots well, with one particular (no description as I don’t want to spoil it) shot sticking with me well after the final credits.

With a cast the includes Vand, Brie, White and Stevens you’d expect good performances – and that is exactly you get. Everyone is natural and naturally great in their roles. Stevens and Vand get the meat of the script and do a fantastic job with all of it.

The script however leaves a bit to be desired, or more specifcally the third act. There are about three ‘inciting incidents’ in this one film. One that hangs over the film, that gets a partial payoff but two others that really lead nowhere. The script would have been better pared down (by no means is it bloated) to this first incident and the issues that arise from that. Two-thirds of the film builds up a good atmosphere and tension, cranking it right up to fever pitch before letting out all its air by adding another unneccessary wrinkle. Then when it comes time to land the heavy blows on the audience, it pulls its punches. Giving you no real resolution, everything that came before comes to nothing. Perhaps, that it the point? It’s a nhilistic ending that offers no answers for the audience beyond the obvious.

However, The Rental has plenty going for it. Great acting and direction and the third act and ending may land well for some people but I was left unsatisfied. That being said The Rental is something you should make time to see.

In Select Drive-Ins, Theaters and On Demand July 24, 2020

Ryan Morrissey-Smith | Twitter: @TigersMS78

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