We’re paraphrasing of course but; The style is the thing…in which to catch the substance of the king…
Now in theatres, Edgar Wright’s long awaited Last Night In Soho is a feast for the eyes that occasionally leans a little too hard on its style in substitute for its substance.
Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie), an aspiring fashion designer, is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer, Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). But the glamour is not all it appears to be and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.
While we’ve known Edgar Wright for playing in the sillier end of the genre pool in films past, here on out he gets downright flashy and grim in a film that is an ode to the gilts and glam of 60’s London as well as the ultra colourful 70’s Giallo that so very obviously influenced him.
While it goes without saying that Last Night In Soho is easily Edgar Wright’s best looking film as he worked in concert with cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung to craft something that knew how to evoke emotion through simple use of colour, lighting and angles.
It occasionally feels hollow…but it’s SUPPOSED to as it’s immersing us in a world that hasn’t any substance but leans on superficiality and style. In that instance, Wright has actually achieved a pretty major achievement as he’s crafted something that feels more a kin to the cinema of Baz Lurhmann then his work.
It’s filled with some pretty grim edges to it that are honestly pretty unexpected but as you watch the film you make more and more peace with the fact that this is less a film that’s trying to scare you with its story but one that is engaging with you on a visual level.
The script from Wright and Krysty Wilson Cairns is focused more on being an intellectual experience rather than a visceral one. For those uninitiated to the era or the Giallo horror style it won’t resonate nearly as impactfully as they’d like it to. While the story isn’t necessarily the most original in the world, it’s the performance from its two dynamic leads that truly elevates it all above the mire of just being an overblown genre film.
Thomasin McKenzie (who you’ll recognize from Jojo Rabbit) is basically carving her real estate here in movie making as a young female lead who can command the screen at every turn. We easily buy into her Eloise who is in love with but simultaneously overwhelmed with the pace, energy and dangers of the big city. The more confident she gets the more we can see her heading for a world of hurt, especially when her journey gets paired up with the one on the other side of the mirror.
As the ambitious Sandie, Anna-Taylor Joy is a hurricane in a cocktail dress that we just can’t look away from. She enters the frame and fills the room with her energy that she thinks she can control but slowly slips away from her as the narrative moves on. Matt Smith and Terrance Stamp add some colour to all the proceedings but it’s the ladies who are leading us on to this dance floor and they certainly make it hard to look away.
Ultimately in Last Night In Soho the style IS the substance as those who know their cinema history will have an incredible amount of fun drinking it all in, but if you’re hoping for something more a kin to the adventures of Shaun or Scott Pilgrim you’ll be left slightly wanting.