Writer-director Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD) is a lot like American gymnast Simone Biles. Both aim high in their ambitions, and they consistently deliver performances that are full of awe-inspiring twists and turns. Where they differ, however, is that Biles knows how to deliver the right amount of “wow” in her routine and then nail her landing. Wright, unfortunately, seems to get lost in his head with all the plot points that he wants to cover. His 2017 film, BABY DRIVER, was ultra-stylish, expertly choreographed and edited, and had an awesome needle-drop soundtrack, but it also went on for about 20 minutes longer than it should have and crashed and burned in the story’s second act. (I should add that, overall, I did like it as I felt the third act saved the film from disaster.) In his latest film, LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, again an overstuffed second act ruined what was, up to that point, a good story. This time around though, the story’s third act couldn’t save it. If anything, it even added to its woes.
In the film, Eloise “Ellie” Turner (Thomasin McKenzie, OLD; JOJO RABBIT; LEAVE NO TRACE) is an aspiring fashion designer from provincial Cornwall who has a love of the clothing styles and music of mid-1960s London. When she goes off to the big city to study at the London College of Fashion, she quickly learns that she’s not quite ready for the mean girls in her dorm and she goes out and finds a vintage loft apartment in a house owned by Ms. Collins (the late Diana Rigg in her final appearance on screen, TV’s GOT and THE AVENGERS). Ellie is a sensitive young woman, who often sees her late mother’s reflection in a mirror. Now, in this flat, she sees Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy, TV’s THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT), an aspiring and vivacious singer who lived in Soho in the mid-60s, in her dreams. At first, it’s all exciting for Ellie as she experiences Sandie’s world first-hand and gets some great fashion inspiration from it, but soon the dreams start bleeding into Ellie’s conscious life. As Ellie learns more about Sandie’s life and the toxic relationship she had with her promoter, Jack (Matt Smith, OFFICIAL SECRETS; TERMINATOR: GENISYS; TV’s THE CROWN and DOCTOR WHO), Ellie feels that she has to save Sandie before it’s too late.
LAST NIGHT IN SOHO is interesting and curiously exciting for about the first 90 minutes or so and then it crashes into a flaming heap. Does Ellie have a sixth sense? Can she really see ghosts like Haley Joel Osment’s character could or does Ellie have psychological issues like her mother had before her? Certainly, listening to Ellie’s grandmother, Peggy (Rita Tushingham, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO), audiences would be forgiven for thinking that Ellie may have inherited more than her mother’s love of Laura Ashley prints and Cilla Black, and the story’s direction would also lead audiences to draw the same conclusion. However, when the dust settles, Ellie turns out to simply be the next Christian Siriano (with a collection consisting of just three dresses, a gay male friend of mine pointed out). If she can see ghosts or if she is loopy, it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone. She can design and that’s what’s important!
Like BABY DRIVER, LAST NIGHT IN SOHO is about 20 minutes too long and loses its way by trying to tackle too many issues at once and not resolving any of them very well… or at all. But, like BABY DRIVER, it’s also impeccably choreographed and edited, and the music is fabulous. The film opens in Hong Kong’s cinemas on Thursday (October 28) and in other markets around the world the day after. Unlike Simone Biles, it’s not going to win any gold medals.
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