Edgar Wright’s latest film, “Last Night in Soho,'' has all of the glamorous edges of the 1960s London cultural scene it seeks to explore the underbelly of, but explores a hollow plot with half-baked themes slathered with Wright’s admittedly skillful knack for dazzling visual effects.
The film follows the vintage London-obsessed Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie) as her romanticization of the 1960s is tested. Feeling isolated from her peers at her new university, she moves into a boarding room where she is dragged from the modern day into ’60s London while she sleeps, forced to passively observe the downward spiral of struggling actress Alexandra “Sandie” Collins (Anya Taylor-Joy).
Released on Oct. 29, this film is decidedly more serious in content and tone than some of Wright’s more recognizable work such as “Baby Driver” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” to questionable effect. At its worst, “Last Night in Soho” felt like a commercial with nothing to advertise (barring the gratuitous Beats headphones plug, of course).
A standout of the film were the stellar performances from leading ladies McKenzie and Taylor-Joy. They were truly the life of the movie, and Taylor-Joy’s illusory vintage starlet paired beautifully with McKenzie’s portrayal of Ellie’s one-sided infatuation with Sandie. These performances were especially remarkable given the incredibly weak screenplay they were given to work with.
Wright is truly remarkable in the sheer lack of trust he has in his own audience. Characters can only speak in trite platitudes, the theme must be explicitly spelled out in the dialogue and the horror aspects must be incredibly obvious. Most of all, every piece of foreshadowing included in the story must be shown in montage when the plot twist is revealed, lest the feeble-minded audience forget just how clever Wright is.
“Last Night in Soho” excels in its slick, vibrant technical stylings. The camera works smartly to incite confusion and dizzily consume the audience in the same haze Eloise operates in. The saturated blues and reds of the neon sign outside of Eloise’s flat also flood the clubs which Sandie frequents. Reality and fantasy bleed into one.
The costuming and hair and makeup also contributed to the movie’s vibrant vertigo, while effectively mapping Eloise’s mental journey in reconciling her longing for the past with her life in the present.
This rings true in the audio elements as well. As the ’60s music blaring from Eloise’s headphones juxtaposes roughly with the sounds of busy, modern London streets, the viewer comes to understand her difficulties in blending into a world she feels entirely detached from. Eloise is a character worth rooting for, as McKenzie manages to play into Eloise’s oblivious longing for the past in a way that feels naive and endearing rather than tedious.
Sandie feels like a fresh character despite the fact that this particular brand of scorned aspiring starlet is a staple in film by now. The supporting actors managed their cliche lines well and delivered fully-realized performances.
In all fairness, “Last Night in Soho” is a thrilling popcorn flick, and if you don’t think about it too much after the fact, you will probably enjoy this. But I came out of the movie feeling stupid — not because the movie was so brilliant, but because I felt like the film assumed that I was stupid.
If you’re looking for a glossy, insubstantial treat and have $10 to blow, then I highly recommend this movie to you. Beyond that, however, the film fell flat in spite of its beautiful surface.
Zara Roy is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle