Boars On The Floor, Goats In The Cellar
If ever there was a sign that great wealth being inherently immoral as an idea has gone mainstream, it’s Ready Or Not, a bloody attempt to shame the billionaire class. The timing couldn’t be better. Released just as Succession seems to have found a foothold in the national consciousness exploring the moral decay that comes with dynastic fortune, Ready Or Not takes those same ideas and… well, just kind of throws some buckets of blood at them. It’s like Us without the coyness.
Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin (a former punk band guitarist from Oakland) and Tyler Gillett (who got his start directing comedy shorts), Ready Or Not stars Samara Weaving as Grace, a smoky-eyed bride-to-be marrying into a wealthy family she hasn’t met until the wedding day. The groom, Alex (Mark O’Brien) has done his best to shield her up until now, but today is finally the day and now all that’s left is to just get through it.
At first, Grace doesn’t quite see what the fuss is about. Sure, the Le Domas family lives in a drafty old mansion with dumbwaiters and a “servant’s corridor,” but beyond that, Alex’s brother Daniel (Adam Brody) seems nice and his mother, Becky (Andie MacDowell), seems downright welcoming, ready to bond over what it’s like to marry into this crazy family. At first, that craziness just seems like the usual rich people problems — a pompous patriarch (Henry Czerny), Alex’s drug-addled sister (Melanie Scrofano), a bitchy sister-in-law (Elyse Levesque), a swell of a brother-in-law (Kristian Bruun) and his disapproving human sight gag of an aunt (Nicky Guadagni, in a comically severe wind-swept grey pompadour with dark cartoonish slashes for eyebrows).
It’s only after the wedding that things start to get truly weird. Grace finds out that as part of her initiation to the family, they’ll all gather in the gaming room (“a totally normal room for a house to have” Grace jokes), at the stroke of midnight, when she’ll have to draw a card and play a game. As the heirs to a fortune that began in playing cards, moved into board games, and eventually professional sports teams, games are apparently very important to the Le Domas clan. In fact, the game part is much more important than the actual wedding, explains Alex.
It’s only when Grace draws her card that she finds out just how much Alex has been hiding from her and sets the film down the path of “bloody thriller.” It’s very much wealth inequality meets “let’s play a game.”
The idea that families or individuals who amassed great empires (“dominions,” as Alex jokingly corrects Grace) through bold acquisitiveness and striving would eventually have to pass them to their sheltered, incompetent, possibly inbred offspring has been around since at least the Mongols, when Genghis Khan’s nomadic, rat fur-wearing horsemen conquered half the world and then had to pass down a fractious kingdom to their soft-handed, city-bred offspring. As one rich patriarch put it, “One does not become a general because he is the son of a general.”