The Rental

At the Movies Blog

Dave Franco goes from being the actor and brother of James, to a director. And for his first outing, it’s not bad. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but there’s a solid cast and it keeps you interested. 

My biggest pet peeve happens early on. I hate when characters do things that aren’t believable. And we’re supposed to believe that when a Middle Eastern woman named Mina (Sheila Vand) requests a huge mansion for an Airbnb weekend getaway, and that she’s denied. Yet when her white boss Charlie (Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey) signs up an hour later, he’s accepted. Now, I don’t doubt there are cases like this (I’ve read about them in the paper), but I don’t think a homeowner would be dumb enough to accept another offer an hour later and not suspect it’s the same person. I also don’t think the character would confront the guy on their first day there. There are just so many things characters do and say, that just have you scratching your head, wondering why they would have done those things (I can’t tell you more without spoiling things).

The homeowner (Toby Huss) has just the right look and attitude, to get us worried about him. 

The two couples consist of brothers, and their girlfriends. Mina and Charlie work together, but early on, we wonder if there might be something more; even though she’s dating his younger brother Josh (Jeremy Allen White). We also get the feeling he’s a bit of a loser. For example, he brings his dog, despite being told the owner doesn’t want any pets. [any guesses on what’s going to happen to the mutt?]

Alison Brie, who was with the Franco brothers in The Disaster Artist (and has apparently been married to Franco for a few years) plays Michelle, who is Charlie’s girlfriend. She’s terrific in the role. In fact, the entire cast is great. It’s just a shame the characters couldn’t have been fleshed out a bit better. The script was written by Franco and director Joe Swanberg (I always felt his movie Drinking Buddies was underrated).

There’s a really well-written scene when two characters are hiking, and some secrets are accidentally revealed. There’s also a scene done nicely when things escalate among the two couples, and they realize this won’t just be a pleasant weekend. Whenever we’d see a well done scene, it made me think this could be as good as Brian De Palma’s Body Double or John Schlesinger’s Pacific Heights (both movies that coincidentally, star Melanie Griffith).

There’s a suspenseful score by Saunder Jurrians, and while it was refreshing that Franco didn’t just rely on jump scares, I kind of wished there were a few more scares. I also wished a few of the characters could’ve been just a bit more likable. There’s nothing wrong with flawed characters, but give us something to root for. My biggest concern was for the French Bulldog, and hoping it wouldn’t be John Wicked. 

The closing credits were really clever, and it helped, since the ending of the story wasn’t the most satisfying.

Well, the movie Psycho might have made you worry about getting in a shower at a hotel. This is going to make you worry about getting in a shower at an Airbnb rental; or worried about even renting one.

This film is going to be in over 250 Drive-Ins and theatres this weekend, as well as VOD.

2 ½ stars out of 5.

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