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Natalie Dormer, Naomie Harris, The Wasp
(L to R): Natalie Dormer, Naomie Harris in 'The Wasp' at Tribeca FF (courtesy of Tribeca FF)

Tribeca Film Festival Review: ‘The Wasp’

The Wasp

A twisted thriller with deep psychological and sociological undertones, The Wasp stars Naomie Harris and Natalie Dormer. Based on Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s titular play, The Wasp opened in its world premiere in the Spotlight Narrative category at Tribeca Film Festival 2024. Malcolm has successfully turned her play into a screenplay directed by Guillem Morales.

The Wasp resonates with suspense, a jarring, whip-lashing carnival ride. It rings with expectations proven wrong. Primarily due to Morales’ interpretation of the script and to Harris and Dormer, The Wasp drives cataclysmically forward to a shocking conclusion.

The Wasp opens with a frantic Heather (Harris) attempting to kill an annoying wasp in her kitchen. We learn the reason for her upset: Though she had asked her husband Simon (Dominic Allburn) to call an exterminator, he didn’t. The wasp is an alert that the nest will soon swarm and this may create havoc for Simon’s dinner guests soon to arrive. Heather’s ability to “handle all things” while her husband swans around giving orders and neglecting his own responsibilities, jettisons her over the edge.

Sledgehammering the Ceiling

In exasperation, Heather sledgehammers the ceiling, exposing the nest and releasing the swarm. A place of lovely comfort translates into a danger zone. Simon explodes with anger. Heather still makes sure the evening still moves forward, but Simon’s fury spills even more toxicity toward her.

The situation symbolizes their failing relationship, lack of communication, and psychological drift. Simon nastily dismisses Heather’s devastation. With the exception of their obvious prosperity, Simon and Heather have little to sustain their marriage.

Later Heather meets up with former high school friend Carla (Dormer). Antithetically to Heather’s well-heeled financial situation, Carla, in her fourth pregnancy and an extremely stretched financial situation, appears in frayed clothing. Though the two have little in common, Heather attempts to rekindle a bond from the past. As a disinterested Carla sips her tea and gets ready to leave, Heather confronts Carla with information she has found out about Carla’s dire situation. Taking advantage of Carla’s desperation, Heather proposed the Carla kill Simon for a large sum of money.

Guillem Morales iMorgan Lloyd Malcolm, after the screening of 'The Wasp' at Tribeca Film Festival (Carole Di Tosti)
Guillem Morales, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm after the screening of The Wasp at Tribeca Film Festival (Carole Di Tosti)

Surprising Intentions

The suspense increases with Heather’s murderous intent. Obviously educated, dressed stylishly with a cute, successful husband, Heather has everything Carla wants. Heather has succeeded in a patriarchal, formerly colonial culture, despite her race. On the other hand, Carla, a white woman, never mined the “leg up” the culture offered her. The disparity between them unsettles.

But subsequently, Heather’s offer seems less evil and insidious. In a weird reversal, her identity speaks privilege, while Carla’s shouts “low class.” Thus, we don’t question Heather’s offer as much as we should.

Malcolm twits our prejudices and biases. The well constructed characterizations and backstories lead us to empathize with Heather more than with Carla. First, we enjoy the beauty of her house, her wealth, her intelligence and demeanor as a pride-filled, empowered Black woman, contrasting with Carla. Additionally, the opening scenes reveal Simon’s emotional and psychological abuse of Heather. Cleverly, Malcolm predisposes us to like, prefer, and identify with Heather. Also, the notions of race, class, privilege and money predispose us to assume we know how Carla will receive Heather’s offer.

Rejection

After an initial rejection, a larger profferred amount challenges Carla’s good judgment. Heather appears human and nonjudgmental. Gradually she manipulates Carla to agree and together they plot the where, how, and when.

There is no spoiler. You will just have to see The Wasp to experience the roller-coaster scene changes and suspenseful turns before you arrive exhausted after discovering who lives and who dies. Additionally, the film takes advantage of the audience’s culpability, challenging us to confront our own stereotyping, political correctness, and morbid indulgence in murderous impulses.

The Wasp is continually harrowing, thrilling and shocking. The layered complications of the characters’ pasts, revealed in flashbacks, invoke motives and psychic trauma. These scenes gradually explain the characters’ present actions and psychology, revealing just enough to dislocate one’s assumptions about the direction of Carla and Heather’s next actions.

The Tarantula Hawk Wasp

The final symbolism of a tarantula hawk wasp that Simon had framed among his hideous insect wall collection) clarifies by the conclusion. Indeed, in the Q&A after the screening Morgan Lloyd Malcolm affirmed reports that tarantula hawk wasps have one of the most intense, painful stings of all insects. Heather, in all her greatness, plays out as either the tarantula or the tarantula hawk wasp that kills the tarantula. You’ll just have to figure out who is which.

Naomie Harris and Natalie Dormer deliver authentic, stinging portrayals of characters who elicit our sympathy after the first two scene gyrations. Indeed, their mesmerizing, nuanced performances anchor Malcolm’s stark, upheaving narrative. As they negotiate secrets, hidden agendas, and deep, interior psychological wounds, they eventually reveal their own underlying traumas. Director Guillem Morales expertly keeps all the balls in the air, then lets them crash to the ground at the conclusion.

Look for The Wasp on streaming platforms. For more information about the film at the Tribeca Film Festival guide visit the website.

About Carole Di Tosti

Carole Di Tosti, Ph.D. is a published writer, playwright, novelist, poet. She owns and manages three well-established blogs: 'The Fat and the Skinny,' 'All Along the NYC Skyline' (https://caroleditosti.com/) 'A Christian Apologists' Sonnets.' She also manages the newly established 'Carole Di Tosti's Linchpin,' which is devoted to foreign theater reviews and guest reviews. She contributed articles to Technorati (310) on various trending topics from 2011-2013. To Blogcritics she has contributed 583+ reviews, interviews on films and theater predominately. Carole Di Tosti also has reviewed NYBG exhibits and wine events. She guest writes for 'Theater Pizzazz' and has contributed to 'T2Chronicles,' 'NY Theatre Wire' and other online publications. She covers NYC trending events and writes articles promoting advocacy. She professionally free-lanced for TMR and VERVE for 1 1/2 years. She was a former English Instructor. Her published dissertation is referenced in three books, two by Margo Ely, Ph.D. Her novel 'Peregrine: The Ceremony of Powers' will be on sale in January 2021. Her full length plays, 'Edgar,' 'The Painter on His Way to Work,' and 'Pandemics or How Maria Caught Her Vibe' are being submitted for representation and production.

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