The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

The University of Vermont's Independent Voice Since 1883

The Vermont Cynic

Saltburn: Hot Take or a Sloppy Glorification?

Wylie Roberts
Wylie’s illustration for the Saltburn movie review column featuring various illustrative elements from the movie.

“Saltburn” quickly became popular after its Nov. 17, 2023 release, but the hype may be unfounded.  

The film follows Oliver, portrayed by Barry Keoghan, who is taken under the wing of his more popular Oxford classmate Felix, portrayed by Jacob Elordi. Felix invites his less fortunate classmate to spend the summer at his family’s estate, Saltburn, where the majority of the movie takes place. 

“Saltburn” was director Emerald Fennell’s second film just three years after she won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2020 for her first film, “Promising Young Woman.” 

“I drew from my own experience of being a human person, who has felt that thing we all feel at that time in our life which is that absolute insane grip of obsessive love,” Fennell said about the film in an interview with ABC.

Oliver’s obsessive love is developed throughout the film. First, for Felix, but over time we learn his obsession is more with Felix’s life than Felix himself. However, Oliver and Felix’s friendship felt underdeveloped in my opinion. 

We learn later on in the film that Oliver lied to Felix about his family situation in order to get Felix in his life, and ultimately to end up spending the summer with him, but we never learn why Felix wanted to be friends with Oliver in the first place. 

Their friendship begins when Oliver loans his bike to Felix, but this doesn’t seem enough to invite Oliver—portrayed as an unpopular nerd—to be “in” with Felix’s friend group of popular, wealthy students. 

A potential explanation comes from Oliver’s conversation with Venetia, Felix’s sister. She mentions that she likes Oliver better than the friend Felix had brought back to Saltburn previously, implying that Oliver is not the first person Felix has taken in in such a way.

However, we never get any further explanation of this information, thus leaving Felix’s motives for befriending Oliver a mystery. 

Another problem I had with the film was its portrayal of wealth, and the “eat the rich” narrative, which fell short.

Many of my friends felt that the movie aimed to be a commentary about wealth, but if that were the case, I don’t believe it succeeded. Although the story ends poorly for all of the rich family members, there is still heavy glorification of their lifestyle. 

Much of the movie features Oliver and the various family members lounging in the sun, enjoying fancy meals and even having a party with 200 attendees to celebrate Oliver’s birthday. 

While things did end badly for all of the family members, Oliver got everything he wanted. In order for the film to have been an effective “eat the rich” commentary, this ending was not the most suitable. Oliver’s inheritance of the wealth leaves the point hanging. 

“Saltburn” was certainly entertaining with its raunchy, out-there scenes involving Oliver and many of the family members, but overall I felt the film was predictable and not all it was hyped up to be. 

That said, I found it enjoyable and I still recommend watching it, even if only to enjoy the song “Murder on the Dancefloor” in a new way.


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