MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Last Night in Soho is one of 2020’s many films coming to theaters a year past its original release date. It’s written and directed by Edgar Wright, a British filmmaker responsible for some of the more enjoyable comedies of recent years including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs the World and Baby Driver. His films are filled with action, humor, music and a lot of pop culture. This film is similar to his earlier work, but this time Wright has decided to swap horror for comedy, with diminishing returns.
Ellie (McKenzie) is a young woman in her late teens, living in Cornwall with her grandmother Peggy (Rita Tushingham) following the tragic death of her mother. She desires to travel to London and become a student at the London College of Fashion. Early in the film we are introduced to Ellie’s love of the “swinging sixties” through the posters in her bedroom and the LP and 45 records that she takes with her to school, along with her portable record player. She also carries the fashion sense of that era in the clothing that she designs.
Arriving at the women’s dormitory, she is quickly considered an odd duck by her classmates, with the exception of John (Michael Ajao). Ellie moves off campus to take an upstairs room in an older building with a landlady who has strict rules of conduct for her renters. Ellie begins to have strange dreams that not only transport her back to the Soho neighborhood in 1966 but create a psychic connection to Sandie (Taylor-Joy) a character in that past reality.
As Ellie’s rural innocence bumps against the urban harshness of the present time, her romanticism about the Soho of the past is forced to deal with the depravity and corruption that lie beneath the glittery surface. It’s to the film’s credit that it acknowledges the exploitation of women and seeks to make some amends for the past (while nevertheless being an exploitative horror movie).
I have no doubt that Edgar Wright had a grand time recalling dozens of movies from this period, along with appropriate pop songs and fashions (and a handful of British actors famous in the sixties including Tushingham, Terence Stamp, and Diana Rigg). But Last Night in Soho fails to rise above its cultural forebears.
While the acting, the editing, and the camerawork are always engaging, the characters are one dimensional and the script is just plain silly. Last Night in Soho is that rare film that would be best viewed on VHS.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Two halos: An entertaining popcorn movie, but that’s about all.
Four pitchforks: More suggestive than graphic about sex, but the bloodletting, violence, and occasional strong profanity are the real deal.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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