By Emma Simonoff
For those of you who don’t know, Alicia Silverstone is a plaid yellow pantsuit-wearing, 90s slang-spitting, romantic comedy icon.
Silverstone doesn’t usually do esoteric, disturbing, brain-searing surrealist thrillers. Until 2017, when she played a spaghetti-eating sociopath’s mother in Yorgos Lanthimos’s second English feature “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.”
We all know Silverstone from “Clueless,” which is a timeless masterpiece. Today, listening to Cher Horowitz’s opening monologue as she pushes past her plebeian peers is both euphoric and devastating. It reminds me of one of the great pop culture tragedies of our time: that Silverstone isn’t in more films.
After “Clueless,” Silverstone did “Batman & Robin,” but aside from that and her cameo in an Aerosmith video, not much of her work endures. Scrolling through her IMDb page, I don’t recognize much. Overall, she has roles in comedies and romances, nothing too far from her roots, so, in my opinion, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” stands out like a sore thumb.
Colin Farrell plays a surgeon who is approached by the son of a man who died while on his operating table. The son, played by Barry Keoghan, somehow infects the surgeon’s family with a disease that will kill them unless he chooses to kill someone himself. The mother of this evil boy is played by Silverstone.
“The Killing of a Sacred Deer” may appear as if it takes place in our world, but everything else about it — the dialogue, the performances, the dark absurdity — is of an alien planet that I love to watch but would loathe to visit. The tone of the film is hard to explain because Lanthimos has a sense of humor you just can’t describe to someone who hasn’t seen his movies without sounding like a dreadful person.
It’s sad because you don’t want Farrell to have to kill his family. You can’t help but feel for him and you don’t want any of them to die. However, when he drags his son around trying to get his legs to work and the son falls flat on his face, you laugh. And when the daughter asks her brother if she can have his iPod when he dies, you laugh. And when Keoghan bites a chunk out of Farrell’s arm, you scream. But in a fun way.
I watched this film at 10:30 in the morning on a Sunday. How that has affected my brain is too soon to say.
So, in such an otherworldly, strange and unsettling movie, why cast someone who everyone already knows as Cher and only Cher?
Farrell and Nicole Kidman are super famous too, of course, but when you see Silverstone in something, you’re probably thinking “Oh, Cher Horowitz is in this.” You would think that you wouldn’t want that from a movie that seems to be trying to take you in a totally different direction, but it works.
Beyond the fact that she’s a phenomenal actress, her casting in this film makes it feel even weirder.
Silverstone sits on a couch next to Farrell and compliments his hands, asks about his marriage, tries to sleep with him. It’s sad, funny and extremely uncomfortable, and all that is exaggerated by the fact that Horowitz is basically trying to swallow Farrell’s hand.
You’ve been transported to another dimension, and not one filled with striking red party dresses and designer coats.