Last Night in Soho: Review
Last Night in Soho Synopsis: Aspiring fashion designer Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s, where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer (Anya Taylor-Joy). However, the glamour is not all it appears to be, and the dreams of the past start to crack and splinter into something far darker.
From sleekly stylized actioners (Baby Driver) to the laugh-out-allure of his distinctive comedies (the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy), writer/director Edgar Wright is rightly considered one of populist cinema’s best voices. Wright consistently imbues vibrant quirks to reignite familiar Hollywood pastiches, often matching his hyperactive visual profile with a sharp comedic perspective.
Wright’s latest vehicle, Last Night in Soho, finds the writer/director osmosing his voice into the hyper-stylized world of Giallo horror features. What seems like a perfect match on paper feels oddly disconnected in execution. Soho’s misguided blend of horror and theme marks Wright’s first miss in his storied career.
Even in a dud, Wright still conjures moments of promise. His feature works best when it basks in flashbacks of 1960s London, soaking in the uneasy juxtaposition between the era’s glamorous kitsch and the seedy behaviors lying just under the surface. The craftsman also has a blast leaning into Giallo’s array of colorful influences, with he and Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung playing in the Giallo’s sandbox of neon-soaked colors and spectral creatures.
While visually proficient, Last Night in Soho feels oddly lacking in terms of a structured identity. It’s clear Wright wants to wear influences of Giallo horror, but he doesn’t descend enough into the genre’s madcap surrealism or B-movie playfulness (James Wan’s Malignant was more understanding of the subgenre’s charms). In its place, Wright attempts to use the stylistic blueprint to reflect on the sexual abuse of women that bled from the antiquated 1960s into modern times.
Wright and co-writer Krysty Wilson certainly have their pulse on an urgent issue. That said, the duo rarely knows what to convey with their subject matter. The first two-thirds rest solely on surface-level realities before unleashing a final third that descends into utter madness. Amidst a wave of nonsensical twists, Wright and Wilson lose any semblance of critical perspective. It ends up creating a vehicle that doesn’t have much to say besides the obvious, trailing vastly in comparison to recent features that have critiqued inequitable treatment with far more weight (Promising Young Woman and Zola come to mind).
The screenplay’s paper-thin thematic pursuits stand as an apropos reflection of the film’s overwhelming shallowness. I was shocked at how reliant the film was on played-out narrative tropes, from a mean-girl bully who is almost comically evil to a love interest character that’s given no agency outside of aiding Eloise. While stars Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy imbue some depth from their skilled deliveries, neither character has presence outside the familiar archetypes they reflect.
Aside from striking some competent marks, Last Night in Soho lacks any tangible thematic or visual identity. The blur of bright colors and well-crafted setpieces can’t masquerade the overt emptiness.