Rather than offering the escape that its title suggests, watching “Beach House” feels like work. There’s the effort of trying to figure out what writer-director Jason Saltiel is trying to do with this thriller and the exertion of determining why we should care.
While lazing about her family summer home on Long Island, college student and aspiring writer Emma (Willa Fitzgerald) is desperate for something to happen to fuel her writing. When her mother’s handsome friend Paul (Murray Bartlett) arrives, he brings intrigue and a potentially violent past, simultaneously awakening Emma’s sexuality, her suspicions and her story.
Peppered with dream sequences and flashes of its protagonist’s thoughts, “Beach House” is a murky mess. It feels more like a draft for a college creative writing class rather than a finished work. There’s an interesting idea at its core that it never commits to, and Saltiel can’t fully execute what he does try to explore. This is Saltiel’s debut film and it stabs at style, but the uninspired camera angles and movement appear amateur and do little to further his narrative toward its eye-rolling conclusion.
As Emma, Fitzgerald turns in a fine enough performance, but she and her character are done a disservice by Saltiel and co-writer Matt Simon’s messy script. “Beach House” feels like a fantasy — and a male one, at that — rather than a film that allows Emma any characterization beyond her glasses.
Running time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Playing: Starts June 22, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills