There really is nothing more upsetting and disappointing than underutilized potential, even more so when it is someone’s directorial debut. However, A Banquet, falls into that category of unrelenting disappointment by the sheer lack of finish, polish, and drive. This is not the fault of Ruth Paxton’s wonderful direction, or the incredible cast she has conjured together, but the disjointed and rather unfulfilling script penned by Justin Bull. The movie has so much to offer and unfortunately just gets squandered by a brush of indifference and relatively boring reveals and revelations.
The movie focuses on Holly (Sienna Guillory) as she is recently widowed and left to take care of her two daughters, Betsey (Jessica Alexander) and Isabelle (Ruby Stokes). They are sort of all just coasting through life now, unexcited by anything and unmotivated to do all that much, non-surprising since they just lost their father though. One night, Betsy goes out to a party and a spirit or something of the alike moves its way through the wooded scenery and inhabits Betsy’s body leading her to stop eating and serve her body and soul to a ‘higher purpose’.
This then makes the audience hook line and sinker for something gruesome, terrifying, or even eventful to take place now that there is an ungodly presence emerged and taken over Betsy. Unfortunately, that is where the excitement ends. There is the obvious telling’s of the uncomfortable with anorexia and a dash of body horror, but nothing really elevated or unseen before which leaves these marvellous performances and fantastic direction rendered meaningless as audience engagement starts to dwindle.
Sienna Guillory, Ruby Stokes, and Jessica Alexander all deliver incredible performances that truly will linger with the audience throughout the film and definitely leave the mark of greatness on the viewers. The only issue is that what they work with doesn’t have that same effect, there is still something to be desired. However, it would be a shame to dismiss the work they put in and the incredible effort they achieved due to a script that just fails to scratch deeper than surface level.
With there to be a story further to be desired, but some truly remarkable performances and direction, A Banquet misses the mark in theory, but is an acting showcase that deserves to be seen. Feast your eyes on the bounty of acting, but leave your appetite for story at home.