*. 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.