After dancing around the genre for decades, Edgar Wright finally attempted a simple horror thriller. Yet even if he moves away from parodies like his 2004 hit Shaun of the Dead, the British writer-director retains an affinity for pastiche. Set alternately in today’s Soho and in the semi-mythical “swinging London” of the 1960s, Wright’s new film, Last night in Soho, is inspired by popular cinematic styles half a century ago.
The most important of these is the trope of the “woman losing her grip on reality” popularized by Roman Polanski’s 1965 film. Repulsion. But Wright also incorporates elements of the sexy Italian murder mysteries known as the yellow. (He certainly turned the colorful Dario Argento-style lighting down.) It can be really excruciating to challenge the boundaries of the genre. So let’s just say that Last night in Soho is giallo in at least one important point: like many of these films, it starts with a strong concept, then crumbles when it’s time to move beyond the striking imagery and move on to the more functional aspects of storytelling. .
Soho, who Wright co-wrote with Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917), is also the writer-director’s debut film with a female lead role. You could say he actually has of them leads, but the public’s point of identification is Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), a shy country mouse from Cornwall who is obsessed with the ’60s and dreams of becoming a fashion designer. It is not clear whether Eloise has the gift of second sight or is simply overwhelmed by her family history, but it is established early on that she has visions of her mother, who took her own life while Eloise did not. was just a little girl. This is one of the reasons her grandmother (Rita Tushingham) worries about her as she flees to London in pursuit of her heart’s desire. Another is that “the city is not safe for a young girl”, particularly naive.
Eloise is taught a lesson about it early on, in the form of a lewd cab driver who cares a little too much about the exact location of her dorm. Fitting into design school is also a struggle, given that her roommate, Jocasta (Synnøve Karlsen), is an arrogant mean girl. of Games sharp remarks and callous contempt prompt Eloise to use the last of her meager resources to find off-campus accommodation, namely a studio on loan from Ms Collins’ mother (Diana Rigg, in her latest role on screen), who hasn’t renovated the attic of his creaky old house in decades. Which, of course, is exactly as Eloise likes it.
Shortly thereafter, our young heroine begins to have vivid and intoxicating dreams that transport her to 1966. Part-time, partly haunting, nighttime visions of Eloise connect her to a former resident of her bedroom, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring glamor singer who has all the confidence and charm that Eloise lacks. At first, Eloise can’t wait to fall asleep, relishing the opportunity to strut around some of the lavish, trendy nightclubs she’s dreamed of all her life. Enhanced by an inventive camera work by Wright, between this film and fellow, it’s been a good year for smart mirror shots – the footage is pure wish-fulfillment, for the character and the audience.
This part of the movie plays out much like Disney’s recent live-action origin story. Cruel, in the sense that he uses London in the 1960s as a playground for modern viewers aspiring to a more “authentic” aesthetic era. However, Wright tastes better and more focused, switching from twee pop jangle and kitsch top 40 belts – Petula Clark’s “Downtown” plays a major role in the story – to enhance the mood or create an ironic contrast though. necessary. Veteran costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux also does a stunning job, dressing Sandie in groovy crochet, chiffon, go-go boots and a white vinyl trench coat that Eloise finally dons in the present.
Soon, however, Sandie’s suave “manager” Jack (Matt Smith) begins to show his true violent face, and Sandie / Eloise’s dream life turns into a sordid and violent nightmare. As Sandie’s dilemma deepens, Wright incorporates elements of creepy horror, like see-through male figures whose faces constantly change, a visual manifestation of the film’s rather heavy theme of the pervasiveness of sexual violence. These towering ghosts, whispering “that’s such a pretty name” as they hover over Eloise’s sleeping body, could be anyone. And by the logic of the movie, they are essentially Everybody: a pervasive and pervasive male threat. It’s possible here to admire Wright’s good intentions and still wonder if there is something a little superficial about his portrayal of danger that the women in his audience fully understand.
And for all of Wright’s attention to costumes and sets, he can ignore the implications of his images. Admittedly, neither he nor Wilson-Cairns seem to have considered them when it comes to a heart-wrenching aborted sex scene where Eloise mistakes predatory ghosts from the past for the man she brought home to the present, classmate. and lover John (Michael Ajao). The sequence is masterfully edited and staged to maximize audience discomfort, which only enhances the sloppy optics of putting a black actor in this storyline, especially considering how Last night in Soho Usually uses Ajao’s character, then puts him aside until needed again.
That’s not the only escape: a desperate narrative twist in the third act doesn’t totally undermine the film’s feminist agenda, but it does leave a bitter aftertaste. The biggest problem here lies in the superficial characterizations. Maybe if there was more to Sandie than victimization and fabulous dresses, and more complexity in Eloise’s motives, those stumbling blocks would be more easily lifted. But like in Wright’s last film, Baby Driver, characters are shiny objects first and people second – a choice that ensures that Last night in Sohothe merits of are almost entirely at the surface level. For Wright, recalling jokes shouldn’t mean recalling humanity as well.