In June 2018, Alex Richanbach, director of the Netflix original film Ibiza, which follows the misadventures of three American women on the Spanish island, admitted to venerable dance-music magazine Mixmag that he had, in fact, never been there. It turns out, the film’s club scenes were filmed in Croatia. While Richanbach’s lack of firsthand experience on the island is by no means a disaster in relative terms, it’s certainly a folly—one that, as Mixmag suggests, calls the entire film’s merits into question.
The worst film follies of 2018 are similarly ill-conceived cinematic ventures that nonetheless managed to gain a certain amount of critical adoration, from Bryan Singer’s miscalculated biopic Bohemian Rhapsody to Xavier Legrand’s voyeuristically sadistic Custody. This list makes equal room for the lowest hanging Hollywood fruit and art-house fare nonsensically convinced of its own cultural and artistic importance. Hardly the real deal, these films should have, figuratively speaking, gone to Ibiza. Clayton Dillard
Brawny, model-hot beefcakes with bleached teeth, ODA 595’s soldiers are depicted as amiable tough guys with a keen sense of gallows humor and just enough moral scruples to lend them a sense of humanity—but not so much that they ever become moralizing killjoys. Their backstories are largely a mystery, save for some perfunctory prefatory scenes showing a few of them with their families. 12 Strong contrasts their genial good nature with the vicious, self-serious savagery of their enemies, who are shown—in one of the few scenes not presented from the U.S. military’s immediate vantage point—executing a little girl in the middle of a town square for the crime of being educated. This gruesome atrocity is cynically used to goose the audience’s moral outrage as well as to provide an additional rationale for the U.S.‘s mission: Now it’s not just about revenge, but also liberation. Keith Watson
Twelve years ago, United 93 transformed a real-life tragedy into a visceral, you-were-there thrill ride. With the no less morbid and hollow 22 July, Paul Greengrass takes on the 2011 Norway attacks by Anders Behring Breivik that left 77 people dead. While the filmmaker devotes some time to the motives and psychological state of the lone-wolf terrorist at the center of this film, the resulting portrait of Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie) reveals little more than a megalomaniacal loner with insurmountable mommy issues. After an opening scene where Breivik meticulously crafts numerous bombs and loads them, along with an arsenal of weapons, into an unmarked van, Greengrass cuts to a drone shot of Breivik driving on a road surrounded by a vast forest. As if the carnage to come is somehow in doubt, the ominous music that plays over this image primes us to buckle up for what’s sure to be a suspenseful series of sequences just around the bend. That a drop from John Williams’s Jaws score wouldn’t be out of place on this film’s soundtrack goes to show how tactlessly Greengrass milks tragedy for titillation. Derek Smith
Hear Sigur Rós’s “Svefn-G-Englar” creeping onto the soundtrack as Nic (Timothée Chalamet) reads Charles Bukowski’s poem “Let It Enfold You” aloud in a literature class? That’s the sound of Beautiful Boy deploying the first of many excruciating needle drops—a moment so sincere and convinced of its emotive power that it makes Lady Gaga’s performance of “Shallow” in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born seem ironic by comparison. Throughout, Felix van Groeningen debases the film’s subject matter through a grab bag of histrionic hack moves, from wistful montages flashing between Nic’s childhood and the present day, to repetitive shots of Nic brooding and crying, to Dave (Steve Carrell) shouting to himself and others over Nic’s attempts to kick addiction. Even so, the wackest part of Beautiful Boy is its romanticized depiction of hard drug use. The result is less beautiful than it is bullshit. Dillard
Set aside the controversy and debate over the film’s depiction of Freddie Mercury’s (Rami Malek) sexuality and Bohemian Rhapsody is still the biggest disaster of the post-Walk Hard biopic era. Every single scene of the film is unintentionally parodic, from the rehearsals of the titular epic that use the finished master recording, to the depiction of Queen’s touring success documented via a montage of the band shouting out each city they play. Worst of all is Freddie’s father (Ace Bhatti) incessantly intoning the bizarre mantra “Good thoughts, good words, good deeds” until it half-assedly pays off when Freddie agrees to perform at Live Aid. For all of the meticulous care given to replicating the specific beats of Queen’s most famous performances, the film gives short shrift to Mercury’s fellow bandmates. And when Bohemian Rhapsody does broach Freddie’s sexuality, it does so in the most self-negating ways; characters lament that Freddie lives in repressive times even as the gay relationship that gets the most screen time is steeped in debauchery and manipulation. In the film’s most garish scene, Freddie finds himself standing between his destructive, career-stagnating romance with Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) and the warmth and true love symbolized by his female ex. Jake Cole
An exploitation thriller dressed up as a sober arthouse drama, Xavier Legrand’s Custody at least opens strong, with a gripping 15-minute custody hearing that suggests a world of complicated feelings and bitter interpersonal strife lurking just beneath the surface of the coolly formalistic court proceedings. But it’s just a head-fake, as Legrand proceeds to spend the film’s remaining 70 minutes stripping away every last vestige of moral and emotional complexity hinted at in that opening scene. Legrand essentially takes the beginning of Kramer vs. Kramer and welds it onto the end of The Shining, a fusion that illuminates nothing other than the cynicism of the filmmaker’s vision. Custody has been lauded by some for its harrowing tension, but whatever suspense the film achieves comes at the expense of its characters, who are quickly reduced to shallow stock types (monstrous father, victimized wife, scared kid). Legrand isn’t really interested in the tangled web of emotions that characterize abusive relationships anyway—everything is just window dressing for the film’s depressingly predictable and sleazily enthusiastic descent into violence. Watson