The 400-Word Movie Review: The Rental
By Sean Collier
July 24, 2020
Sometime during your second Airbnb stay, a thought will inevitably occur to you: “Is the owner watching me right now?”
They’re probably not, of course. Let the official opinion of this review be that the vast majority of Airbnb owners are absolutely not monitoring your every move. It’s not that you’re definitely being watched — it’s that you’d have no way of knowing if you were. You’re in someone else’s place, with only a theoretical assurance of privacy and security.
Sounds, to me, like a decent enough premise for a quick thriller.
Two couples — Josh (Jeremy Allen White) and Mina (Sheila Vand), and Michelle (Alison Brie) and Charlie (Dan Stevens) — book a luxurious beachfront property for a getaway weekend. There’s plenty of strings connecting these four: Charlie and Josh are brothers, and Mina and Charlie are business partners celebrating a long-awaited deal.
The getaway starts on a sour note, as caretaker Taylor (Toby Huss) doesn’t bother to conceal his racism in front of Mina, who is of Middle Eastern descent. After the bags are unpacked and the substances are distributed, however, the couples begin to relax. (A bit too much, in one case, but I won’t spoil anything.)
When Mina discovers a hidden camera in the shower, things get very bad in a hurry. Clearly, the couples are being watched; finding out who is doing so and why will not proceed in the way that anyone, ideally including the audience, suspects.
“The Rental” is the freshman directorial effort for Dave Franco, the actor best known for franchises including “Neighbors” and “Now You See Me.” Many performers moving behind the camera seek to show off a control of mood and style in their first outing; Franco is no exception, creeping through the vacation property with menace. He doesn’t have too many tools in his belt, but he knows how to use those he does possess. Vand and Brie help him out with fine performances. (The men are forgettable, though Huss has some moments of menace.)
His script — co-written with Joe Swanberg and Mike Demski — is less of a success. Without giving much away, I can report that the conclusion to “The Rental” is somewhat unsatisfying; revelations in movies this twisty are meant to be stunning, while this one is mostly perfunctory. Don’t bother trying to figure things out; the outcome is much less intricate than you expect.
My Rating: 6/10
“The Rental” is available via digital on-demand services and is playing in select theaters.