Farleigh makes Oliver sing “Rent” during the karaoke scene in Saltburn to humiliate him by making him acknowledge his freeloading dynamic with the Catton family. Farleigh embraces the lyrics of “Rent” because he feels entitled to the Cattons’ wealth due to his familial connection, but thinks Oliver should be embarrassed by the lyrics because he doesn’t deserve access to the family’s fortune. Oliver resents Farleigh’s implication that he hasn’t earned his keep at Saltburn because, as his final speech reveals, Oliver actually put in a lot of work to infiltrate the Catton family and inherit their fortune.
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Oliver and Farleigh’s karaoke scene in Saltburn is very revealing of how both characters view their roles within the Catton family’s inner circle. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, Saltburn follows Oxford student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), who is invited by his rich friend Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi) to spend the summer at his family’s lavish Saltburn estate. Because of his ostensibly lower-class background, Oliver appears to be a fish out of water at Saltburn as he enjoys the perks of high society and basks in all the decadence while growing closer to the Catton family.
Saltburn is full of memorable music moments, such as Oliver dancing to “Murder on the Dancefloor” in the final scene of Saltburn. However, the meaning and implications of some of the songs that play in Saltburn go deeper than others. In one scene, Felix’s cousin, Farleigh Start (Archie Madekwe), playfully pressures Oliver to sing karaoke, which quickly becomes uncomfortable because of Farleigh’s song choice for Oliver. The moment reveals a lot about Farleigh and Oliver’s views of their own relationships with the Cattons and how they differ from each other.
Related Saltburn Cast & Character Guide Since Saltburn’s compelling drama is primarily driven by its well-written character beats, one cannot help but wonder who plays whom in the movie.
Why Farleigh Makes Oliver Sing The Song “Rent” At The Cattons’ Karaoke Night
The lyrics describe Oliver’s relationship with the Cattons
In the karaoke scene, the song Farleigh chooses for Oliver to sing is “Rent” by the Pet Shop Boys, which is written from the perspective of someone expressing gratitude to another person for paying their rent and buying them anything they want. Because he is not familiar with the song, Oliver doesn’t catch on at first that the song’s subject matter applies so closely to his relationship with the Cattons. As Oliver sings lyrics like, “You buy me things, I love it,” it becomes clear that this song choice wasn’t just an unfortunate coincidence.
By making him unknowingly sing these lyrics, Farleigh essentially tricks Oliver into acknowledging his unbalanced dynamic with the Catton family, creating awkward tension in the room. Everybody is momentarily forced to confront the undeniable reality that Oliver has been freeloading by staying in their mansion rent-free and experiencing this lavish lifestyle on the Cattons’ dime. Farleigh deliberately chose this song to try to humiliate Oliver and put him in his place because he doesn’t think Oliver deserves to be at Saltburn.
Farleigh & Oliver’s Responses To Singing “Rent” Highlight How Different Their Relationships With The Cattons Are
Farleigh embraces the lyrics while Oliver resents them
Ultimately, Farleigh feels so strongly about Oliver posing such an imposition at Saltburn because of his own financial dynamic with the Cattons. Farleigh’s mother, Frederica, is the sister of the Catton patriarch, Sir James, who began supporting Farleigh financially after he cut off Frederica. Because Farleigh is part of the Catton family tree, he feels entitled to reap the benefits. Farleigh only views Oliver as a parasitic freeloader because he feels Oliver hasn’t “earned” his right to the privileges of the Cattons’ lifestyle like Farleigh has through his familial connections.
Farleigh’s unapologetic attitude about his access to the Cattons’ wealth is evident in the karaoke scene. Oliver stops singing after the first utterance of “I love you, you pay my rent,” now realizing he’s been cornered into admitting he’s a freeloader. He then points out that “this is your song as well, Farleigh” and encourages him to “come finish it.” Farleigh sings with pride and enthusiasm, unashamed by how applicable the lyrics are to his situation as well. Farleigh’s not embarrassed to own up to the fact that the Cattons are funding his whole life because he’s family, unlike Oliver.
Related What Really Happened To Farleigh In Saltburn Farleigh is one of the most interesting characters in Saltburn, but the film doesn’t make his fate clear – so here’s what really happened.
Oliver’s Final Speech To Elspeth In Saltburn Calls Back To The Karaoke Scene’s Real Meaning
Oliver believes he worked hard to inherit the Catton family fortune
In the karaoke scene, Oliver does not appear to be amused by Farleigh indirectly calling him out for being a freeloader, seemingly because he knows it’s true. However, Saltburn’s ending provides more insight into the real meaning behind Oliver’s reaction in that scene. In his final speech to a comatose Elspeth Catton on her deathbed, Oliver reveals his master plan all along was to infiltrate the Catton family and inherit Saltburn by any means necessary. This included murdering members of the Catton family and framing their deaths as “terrible accidents,” which Oliver claims are reserved for the rich.
According to Oliver, regular people can’t rely on fate or chance—they have to work to get what they want, and unlike the Cattons, he “actually knows how to work.” For Oliver, this meant scheming to get invited to Saltburn, manipulating the whole Catton family, and even killing some of them, all so he’d end up with their fortune. Oliver’s grand reveal proves that he didn’t just end up at Saltburn by chance, nor did he just sit by while the Cattons spoiled him. He meticulously planned the whole thing and worked toward his goal, controlling the Cattons like puppets.
In the karaoke scene, Farleigh’s song choice didn’t strike a nerve because Oliver’s embarrassed that he’s a freeloader—he’s irritated because he doesn’t believe that’s true. Oliver took Farleigh’s call-out personally because, unbeknownst to Farleigh or anyone else, a ton of effort had actually gone into Oliver ending up right where he was. Farleigh implying that Oliver’s done nothing to earn his keep at Saltburn or deserve the Cattons’ money is insulting to Oliver because he actually has worked hard for it. In his own twisted way, Oliver proves Farleigh wrong by the end of Saltburn, for better or worse.
Release Date November 17, 2023
Director Emerald Fennell