Review: ‘Last Night in Soho’ is Wright gone wrong

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“Last Night in Soho” gives us amazing performances by the cast, psychedelic shots that will stick with audiences and brilliant costume and set design. However, the pacing of its flawed story is hard to overcome.

Edgar Wright’s “Last Night in Soho” is an aesthetically pleasing, psychedelic horror film that serves as the perfect reminder to never get your hopes up.

I’ve never walked out of Wright’s films scratching my head or feeling disappointed. Wright’s stellar filmography, including classics like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz,” never leaves viewers questioning the pacing, character motives or the story itself. They aren’t exceptional to look at, but they’re damn near perfect films. “Soho” is an exception to this rule, and is the polar opposite of these films in both genre and quality.

To be fair, “Soho” differs itself from these films through creative cinematography, featuring a plethora of psychedelic flashbacks that are visually striking. However, it becomes evident that the film is masking its atrocious pacing with pretty colors. While the film truly embodies the notion “every frame is a painting,” it wastes this talent on a story that crawls to an unsatisfying conclusion.

The story follows aspiring fashion designer Ellie Turner (Thomasin McKenzie), who is  completely out of her element in fashion school. She was raised by her grandparents due to her mother’s suicide. Her upbringing made her nostalgic for the ’60s, displayed through her dated attire and taste in classic rock.

Turner is alienated from the modern, party lifestyle of her fellow students and quickly moves into the spare room of the elderly Alexandra Collins (Diana Rigg). Collins’ rules are stereotypical, but one rule sticks out: no boys allowed past 8 p.m.. Desperate to move out, Turner accepts Collins’ conditions eagerly.

This is where Wright transports audiences to the 1960s, figuratively and literally.  Turner’s room becomes a portal to the 1960s and places her in the body of Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young woman eager to make it in London as a singer. Sandie and Turner are both in London to fulfill their dreams, but Sandie is blonde, beautiful, confident and electric—everything Turner is not.

Turner becomes obsessed with her room, opting to travel back in time to see Sandie every night. Turner is inspired by these events and uses the outfits she sees Sandie wearing for her modern-day fashion inspirations. Obviously, this is plagiarism, but instead of being kicked out of school, Turner is praised by her professor and catches the interest of fellow loner John (Michael Ajao).

Turner’s visions leave a physical impact on her in the present-day: when Sandie makes love to her soon-to-be pimp, Turner is left with a visible hickey. As the film progresses, Sandie’s aspirations are destroyed by the degraded environment of 1960s London. Eventually, Sandie is forced into prostitution, where her pimp brutally murders her in a flashback sequence that Turner sees while eloping with John.

The pacing falls apart when Turner starts investigating Sandie’s decades-old murder, even going to the police about seeing murder through flashbacks. Viewers are bombarded with constant images of Turner running through psychedelic visions of the faceless men that solicited Sandie. As this occurs, characters in the present notice Turner’s erratic and downright insane behavior.

Perhaps Wright wants us to be like Turner’s love interest John, who prevents Turner from stabbing another student in the face with scissors while she suffers from the demonic visions of the faceless men. John does nothing and accepts the insanity. As a viewer, it’s hard to digest such absurdity.

Wright’s psychedelic horror film gives us amazing performances by McKenzie and Taylor-Joy, psychedelic shots that will stick with audiences, and brilliant costume and set design. However, the pacing of its flawed story is hard to overcome. For viewers excited about Wright’s latest outing, you should spare yourself and wait for his next film.

“Last Night in Soho” is rated R and runs for one hour and 56 minutes.

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Caleb Sprous
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