Last Night in Soho (c) Focus Features
Film: Last Night in Soho
Premise: Ellia (Thomasin McKenzie) is a small-town Brit moving to London for fashion school. Her grandmother is happy for her and tells her if she ever needs anything to call, especially if she sees her mother. That Ella’s mother is dead is a red flag - Ella has seen her reflection in mirrors. And sure enough, not long after moving into a creepy old house run by Mrs. Collins (the late Diana Rigg in her last movie, a great send-off), she begins seeing the past being played out in her dreams, particularly that of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), who in the groovy 1960s is a promising young singer with the help of her new manager–boyfriend (Matt Smith). Ellie is enchanted by Sandie’s story and her glamourous life, even dying her hair blonde to emulate her (although she looks more like a young Nicole Kidman ala “To Die For”). But as Sandie’s story progresses, Ella realizes Sophie is in danger, which may spill over to Ella’s present.
My Take: For the first 45 minutes, I was on such a high from this movie. Director Edgar Wright was trying something new by having his first female lead in one of his films and keeping the cool aesthetics her perfected in “Baby Driver.” Then he change course halfway through the movie, which he occasionally does with varying degrees of success. It worked for “The World’s End” in which a pub crawl comedy morphed into a sci-fi horror flick. But as hard as I wanted to keep going on with “Last Night in Soho,” I ultimately couldn’t make the leap, which is a shame because the first part is such so good. Actually, the last half is fine as well, for the genre that it is. But I felt that Wright was going somewhere original and it just devolved into generic, spooky film territory, never really explaining why Ellie has her gift and how it turned so sour. There are so many cheap scares in this movie, I was waiting for the cat to jump at Ellie since that’s the only trope Wright didn’t use. Anya Taylor-Joy needs to be careful with roles that only require looks and stares with nothing underneath (thankfully “Emma” showed she can do more) and Thomasin McKenzie is just not given much to do besides being confused. You and me both, lady.
VIP: Chung Chung-hoon. The South Korean cinematographer’s work here is always a feast for the eyes, even when the story goes off the rails. Most known for his fabulous work in Park Chan-woo’s “The Handmaiden,” this is Chung’s first film with Edgar Wright, who usually works with Bill Pope. “The Handmaiden” is a perfect example of a movie that starts as a workplace drama and successfully turns into a wacky melodrama (there’s a squid). Chung’s mixing of present and past in "Soho" is so deft and seamless, I gasped a couple of times. Impressive.
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