The Birthday Cake
Jimmy Giannopoulos is known for being one half of the electropop duo LOLAWOLF (alongside future Catwoman Zoë Kravitz) and is now a feature filmmaker too. He has a lot of clout within the entertainment industry. And that might be all we learn about him if he continues creating work like The Birthday Cake.
In this crime thriller, a young man (Shiloh Fernandez) returns home on the tenth anniversary of his father’s death for a memorial hosted by his gangster uncle. Shortly after his arrival, he witnesses a brutal murder and is forced to confront the mafioso lifestyle that he has strived to avoid for so long.
The primary thing we notice when watching this Brooklyn-based mobster movie is that the director knows how to attract a wealth of talent. Well-known actors such as Ewan McGregor, Val Kilmer, Ashley Benson and Penn Badgley take the lead in a cast that also features William Fichtner, Aldis Hodge, Emory Cohen and Jeremy Allen White in major supporting roles, in addition to smaller appearances from Lorraine Bracco and Luis Guzman.
Certainly, the visual of these recognisable performers coming in and out of the picture – as if viewers are watching the livestream of a red-carpet gala – might be the only thing that one will discern: the sound mix is so poor that the dialogue spoken by this star-studded line-up is virtually incomprehensible. It is a disorienting experience made worse by an annoying leitmotif that plays whenever anyone is in danger.
The performances range from terribly overplayed to absurdly understated: from the younger actors overcompensating for their lack of New York qualities by throwing F-bombs after every word to McGregor lazily narrating the epic chronicle (with his regular Scottish accent at that) as a priest who’s in and out of the protagonist’s life. If there’s one talent who has the right idea, though, it’s director of photography Sean Price Williams. The cinematographer, whose notable work includes It Must Be Heaven and Good Time, preserves the electric, energetic style of his work with the Safdie brothers to establish an appropriate ambience. Only he deserves a slice for serving up The Birthday Cake.
The Birthday Cake is released nationwide on 16th July 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Birthday Cake here: