Last Night in Soho (2021)

*. Sometimes you just feel like throwing your hands up.
*. I’ve said before that I think Edgar Wright is an overrated director. Not bad, just overrated. I still think his best movie is Shaun of the Dead. With Last Night in Soho, which he came up with the story for, he is on form. Meaning it’s a great-looking movie, slickly (and expensively) put forward with some astounding technical virtuosity, but without a brain in its head or, for that matter, a whole lot of style.
*. Here’s the plot, which is where I throw my hands up. Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie) is a young woman from somewhere in ye olde rural England who goes to London to study fashion design. She is haunted by visions of her dead mother, who apparently had mental health issues. This makes us think Ellie may be schizophrenic, especially when she doesn’t fit in with the fast crowd of mean girls at school and starts having these very real-feeling fantasies where she’s a glamorous girl called Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) clubbing in ’60s Soho. But Sandy is being hunted by a killer, or maybe she is a killer, and the same goes for Ellie. Or maybe she’s just going crazy.
*. There’s no spoiler for saying that Ellie isn’t crazy (though she does imagine things), because the fact that she isn’t crazy just makes the rest of the story even crazier. It literally makes no sense at all so I won’t bother trying to sort it out. But it’s too bad because I had the sense that Wright was going for something with a giallo vibe and the thing about most gialli is that even the most far-fetched of them still have an inherent logic, however twisted. Last Night in Soho doesn’t.

*. The plot also takes a backseat to Wright’s other obsessions. Like the idea of a character whose life has a soundtrack that gradually seems to take over that life. That was Baby Driver, but it’s even more pronounced here. Ellie, like Wright, has a fixation on the 1960s that, like Wright, she picked up from her mom. Wright was born in 1974 so it’s not like he has any other personal connection to the period. But he has a theory that “you’re always obsessed with the decade you just missed.” I wonder if that explains Cruella, a movie that came out the same year, also set in the fashion world of London in the ’60s. Or maybe it’s just coincidence.
*. McKenzie and Taylor-Joy both play well. Matt Smith (a wildly popular actor in the U.K., or so I’m told) plays a sinister weirdo only half as well as Terence Stamp (the “Silver Haired Gentleman), who by this point has the role down pat. Diana Rigg, in her last film appearance, at least goes out on an operatic note.
*. It’s not a movie I enjoyed for a moment, though I was impressed by the care taken to recreate London and all the fancy shots playing with Ellie/Sandie appearing in mirrors. But it’s a failed giallo and a third-rate ghost story, with characters I don’t think are worth sorting out. Are we supposed to see Sandie as a victim of the patriarchy turned angel of vengeance? I would try and draw something out of this if I cared either way, but I don’t.
*. Ellie’s grandmother is a seamstress and she pronounces it seem-stress. I always thought the British said sem-stress, at least in the ’60s. I can remember being corrected for saying seem-stress in Canada in the ’80s.
*. There’s a contradiction I sense between the lurid slasher plot and the lavish production values. A movie this trashy shouldn’t be dressed up for a gala. Apparently Wright was influenced by psycho-art house thrillers like Repulsion and Don’t Look Now, but they were intellectual buffets compared to this confection. Such movies are inaccessible in spirit to filmmakers now, even with a supernatural, schizo time machine and all the money in the world.

16 thoughts on “Last Night in Soho (2021)

  1. film-authority.com

    Hated, hated, hated this film, Wright’s out-put since Hot Fuzz has been been 50 shades of excrement. Popular he may be in the UK, but Matt Smith is NEVER anything other than a cheezy ham with a face like an ironing board. This film is garbled gibberish, despite swish and expensive production values. BIN IT!

    Reply
    1. Alex Good Post author

      I just find it hard to believe that with how big a production this was nobody seemed to stop and ask if anything about the plot made any sense. It was a total dog’s breakfast.

      Reply
  2. Bookstooge

    I am assuming you threw your hands up in disgust or despair and not in joy or happiness?

    Do you ever dnf movies or do you suffer through the whole thing? This seems like one that would have made your life happier if you’d stopped at some point.

    Reply
    1. Alex Good Post author

      I think it was more hands up at not understanding why they were doing this. That’s a good question about dnf’ing a movie. I can’t think of the last time that happened. Usually I can suffer through anything.

      Reply
  3. fragglerocking

    Haven’t seen it and no intention of doing so. Also – I have never heard anyone in Britain say sem-stress it is always steem-stress. Also why were you talking about a seamstress in Canada anyway? Did you have a torn frock?

    Reply
      1. Alex Good Post author

        Really? Seem-stress? When I was in university studying lit anyone in any class who got caught saying seem-stress was sternly corrected/mocked. I remember several profs getting quite exercised about how the proper (read: British) pronunciation was sem-stress.

        The only word people got more upset over was trait. That was always supposed to be pronounced tray. Though I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say it that way.

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Well, if that’s how Emma says it.

        I’ve always said seemstress too. But I did figure that in the olde days (meaning fifty years or so ago) it must have been semstress, or what was everyone talking about? Maybe it’s regional.

        Do you say methane or mee-thane?

      3. fragglerocking

        Blimey O’Reilly. Its not regional at all. I can’t think of any word that ends in m and has an ea together that isn’t pronounced ee. Gleam – gleem. Dream – dreem. Steam – steem. Also Sea – see. Also clean – cleen. At no point is there an ea word pronounced ‘e’. I agree Methane should be pronounced ‘meh’ but it isn’t, and that’s just the way we roll.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        I’ll take your word for it as a native. Do you ever use the word “sempstress”? Apparently that’s just a variant spelling of seamstress (now rare), and it would sound like semstress.

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