Sometimes, I walk out of a movie and wonder why a director decided to insert a scene that didn’t seem to add anything to the film. With The Square, I walked out wondering why the majority of the scenes had been included. Even the film’s poster gets in on the act, blatantly photoshopping Elisabeth Moss into a scene in which she doesn’t appear. That is a fitting allegory for her role in the film as well as for a lot of the movie’s scenes. Moss didn’t need to be there in the poster picture but someone went to the effort of adding her anyway, for no obvious reason. The same thing seems to have happened with many scenes in this film, the latest from Ruben Ostlund, who previously directed Force Majeure.
The Square centres around an obnoxious, entitled museum curator (Christian, played by Claes Bang) who makes more than a few mistakes in promoting his museum’s new exhibition and, on the side, searching for his stolen phone, wallet, and cufflinks. The fact he sees himself as a pretty good guy only makes things worse for him and everyone he comes into contact with. In between his missteps, we are treated to some truly bizarre scenes involving a human pretending to be an ape at a dinner party, a real ape acting as a third wheel at Moss’ character’s apartment, and a cheerleading performance by one of Christian’s kids, none of which advance the plot in any way, despite a lot of effort being put into staging and filming these scenes. But to what end? The Square repeatedly left me feeling like I had missed the point, but it happened so many times I had to conclude there was no point.
That is The Square: an overlong mess of ideas patched together into a two and a half hour long feature. The movie starts well enough but doesn’t know where to go once it gets started, and certainly doesn’t know how to wrap up what it’s laid out.
The frustrating part is that many of the ideas in the film have the potential to make for good satire, but the movie can’t figure out how to unlock their potential or say anything meaningful, aside from pointing out how much idiocy and chaos can be created by a self-entitled boor, which we are all way too familiar with in our real lives right now.
All in all, The Square never amounts to much. Just like its protagonist, it is aimless, clueless, and we’d be better off if it went away quietly.