Image: Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy in Last Night In Soho [Source: New Yorker]
An aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer. But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something darker.
We’re 2/3 on household name directors releasing something I felt was a miss. It pains me to say it, especially about a near enough national treasure such as Edgar Wright. As up until this point I’d say his most lacklustre film was The World’s End and even that was entertaining and fun. It brings me no delight to arrive at Soho and find that Wright has for the most part missed the mark with this feature.
It starts out incredibly promising and the entire picture certainly has it’s values, even the most lacklustre Edgar Wright film is supremely more creative, inspired and plain and simply artistic than some of the blockbuster drivel that gets peddled to the masses. For at least two thirds of the film, Wright slowly seeps us into the world of our main character. An utterly real and believable presence backed up by an equally grounded if somewhat hammed main performance. Thankfully it doesn’t jar from the events in the picture, as we’re seeing the ghost of a dead relative play like some sort of vision and slowly becomes a disturbing reality. Wright makes great use of this, using things that seem ordinary and safe and later twisting them on there heels to deliver a cutting blow. Most evidently is the films namesake, Soho. Like our protagonist, I’m sure much of the audience has dreamt of a place, heard of it and every drop of culture that spreads from there feels like the nectar of the Gods. You build it up in your imagination and the idea of it becomes greater than it could ever be in reality. All the same points echo for nostalgia also. Which is also a key focus of the film narrative themes. How nostalgia and a glorification of the past, winds us up bloody and bruised when met with the harsh reality.
Wright wants to take safe things and turn them against you here, show you how glorification and our ideas of things and places long before are ultimately false. He also makes use of the down to earth horror of country kid going to the seedy city life, as well as comments on girl fraternising and the false ideas a particular type of person has of men/women from time gone by – “chivalry is dead” “girls these days are too easy” type of comments spring to mind. Wright makes for the most part slashing commentary if not a little surface level, however, at times misses the mark in terms of feminist attitude as the narrative skews itself into a commentary on the role and dynamics between men and women, past and present. In case you haven’t got the impression yet, this film is making a lot of plays at social commentary horror, some of it lands, some of it doesn’t, some of it goes all the way and some of it is used briefly. Frankly it results in a rather messy finale as Wright tries to tackles all these objectives and the plot cannot keep up with the metaphors.
Still, Wright makes incredible use of colour, in the cinematography, set design and particularly the costume design. After all the main character is a fashion designer and a lot of emphasis is put on costume. Wright does some wonderful and typical subtle clues and nods to what is happening in the plot, for example as the main character comes closer to bringing the dress from her “dreams” into reality so too do those horrors get closer. Strangely however, while Wright as a director is still somewhat there, the casting is terrific, the dialogue is sharp and the cinematography is cool and charismatic. But Wrights household style was not present. I found myself thinking “anyone could have made that”, there was no sense of Wright’s passion and stylistic flare, instead I found for such a marvellous and personality driven directing style, this lacked all of it. I couldn’t help but wonder if Wright was not all too fond of making this picture or the story got out of his hands and he no longer had the control he usually does. But the contrary is that the picture is absolutely brimming with influences, nods and call backs to other works of Horror. Even Anya Taylor-Joy who is sensational and steals every moment she is on camera here, to me seemed to be a massive nod to the Hitchcockian girl. Blonde, icy demeanour and lets face it, beautiful. With so many references and influences scattered through the picture, it does make me wonder what happened to Wright’s style.
Like Anderson this year perhaps he is trying to challenge himself any some kind of way or perhaps he was attempting to create something less personal, opting instead to test out some stylistic influence or make a movie not so boxed in to him personally. Whatever it is, I felt the film lacked some of Wright’s artistic talent and flare, the plot goes awol in the last act struggling to keep up with the numerous metaphors, social commentary attempts and the lacklustre bow out of a horror film. It hurts to say but I hope Last Night in Soho was thy last night.