Last Night in Soho (2021)
October 30, 2021 10:09 AM - Subscribe

An aspiring fashion designer is mysteriously able to enter the 1960s where she encounters a dazzling wannabe singer.
posted by rogerroger (30 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Back in September 2019, I stumbled across a couple of puzzling posters in a Soho alleyway. It took a bit of detective work, but we eventually figured they were left over set dressing from this movie's recent filming there. Scroll down to the "Otis Reading and Bella Fitzgerald" piece here to read the full story.
posted by Paul Slade at 11:08 AM on October 30, 2021 [5 favorites]

Watching this movie I couldn't help think about Dressed to Kill, and how this movie was so heavily influenced by Brian De Palma's movie, but rather than make some of the same mistakes that movie made, it seems to be trying to correct those mistakes. That men wore her designs in the final fashion show especially caught my eye. I've read a few reviews of this movie and I can't believe that the connections between the two films isn't being discussed more because there seemed to be a lot of them.
posted by Stanczyk at 3:57 PM on October 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

I saw it last night and loved it. One of those movies where you want to hug yourself in sheer delight at the ingenuity and inventiveness of it. It helped that I saw it at the Curzon Soho and walked back afterwards down Greek Street to Soho Square, past hundreds of Halloween revellers in fancy dress.

For all the period glamour the movie feels sharply relevant in a lot of ways. There's the key scene near the beginning where Ellie is in the taxi, and the taxi driver's banter gradually turns pervy and sinister. A very MeToo moment. You can see her thinking: is there something off here, or am I just imagining it?

Random thoughts:
-- The opening is a callback to the iconic opening scene of Adventures in Babysitting.
-- That Thunderball poster! Obviously a nod to Diana Rigg and Margaret Nolan and their Bond-girl past, obviously invites us to revel in the campy glamour, but also reminds us that old-school sexism was all around in the culture.
-- It also locates the movie very precisely in 1965. Some of the scenes had a very Fifties feel to me and I presume that was deliberate. It's meant to be right on the cusp between the old and the new.
-- Edgar Wright has referenced Tom's Midnight Garden as an influence (not the original book but the classic BBC adaptation). I like to think I would have spotted that without being told, but I probably wouldn't.
-- The library scene was filmed in SOAS. Wright has fun with the microfilm readers, which must be a familiar sort of technology if you work in filmmaking.
-- The contrast between Soho and Fitzrovia is very deftly drawn. One reviewer complained that Fitzrovia is 'not actually in Soho'. YES THAT IS ACTUALLY THE POINT

This feels as if it could be part of a crop of looking-back-to-the-Sixties films, like Peter Jackson's forthcoming Get Back, exploring the paradox that the Sixties are still part of living memory for many people and yet feel like a lost world.
posted by verstegan at 4:57 AM on October 31, 2021 [6 favorites]

Any indication when this will hit streaming?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:41 AM on October 31, 2021

I very much enjoyed this and to echo verstegan's comments above: there's such a joy to Wright's inventive visual language. The way in which he builds images and continuity between shots and scenes is pretty spectacular. I had goosebumps throughout the whole first scene in the 60s. While probably his most visually exciting film, I also think there's a restraint here that has definitely not been the case in his previous films.

I do appreciate a film that sets out to be something of an anti- Ready Player One by delving into the dark underbelly of nostalgia and the dangers of romanticising the past.

I also very much enjoyed the very few hyper London specific jokes.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:11 AM on November 1, 2021 [3 favorites]

The New Yorker's review is more sceptical than most, but makes some interesting points.
posted by Paul Slade at 1:00 AM on November 2, 2021

It's hard to argue that the movie has anything hugely profound to say as such and the characterisation is quite light across the board. Maybe it's a question of expectations and what you're looking for out of the experience. I went in expecting London giallo through Wright's sensibilities and got an engaging and entertaining visual experience with enough in the writing and the performances that I didn't feel it was all surface. Images and feelings from the experience are still strongly with me today (and I've had the killer soundtrack on repeat).

Wright's thing is very much about celebrating and leaning into genre rather than (ugh, I really hate this term) "elevating" the genre. So while it's a fair criticism that the film could've been more profound, I feel like that's not a failure on the part of the writing/directing but rather a deliberate choice. Maybe I'm being overly generous but I really do feel like this is exactly the movie Wright set out to make and the criticism in the above article is about the movie that the writer feels Wright should have made instead. Which is a fair criticism, mind, just different from "they tried and failed".
posted by slimepuppy at 5:35 AM on November 2, 2021

I've not seen the film yet, though looking forward to it. Although I'm sure it's prominently featured, I'm amused to see that the main character is called Eloise. Every night I'm there, I'm always there, she knows I'm there, indeed.
posted by Grangousier at 6:41 AM on November 2, 2021

Any indication when this will hit streaming?

45 days is typical right now.
posted by octothorpe at 7:27 AM on November 2, 2021

My friend pointed out that this movie is pretty much point by point a retelling of the Dreams of the Witch House, by Lovecraft. Good flick.
posted by triage_lazarus at 8:45 PM on November 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

DirtyOldTown and others, looks like it's streaming on Amazon Prime beginning Nov. 18. It says it's on "Prime Video Cinema", not sure what that means.
posted by rogerroger at 2:13 PM on November 16, 2021

It means it will be $19.99-ish, but that's cool.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:19 AM on November 17, 2021

Oh wow, didn't realize that... Pretty steep, DirtyOldTown! But I may shell out the $ too, it's not playing at my local theater.
posted by rogerroger at 11:16 AM on November 17, 2021

I really liked the premise, and the beginning of the movie, but I was unprepared for how stabby and bloody the movie became. When Sandie got forced into prostitution, we barely saw any of the transition, it was just, boom, yup, she's now immediately a prostitute after having been in love with her manager. There was enough time in the movie for multiple scenes of scary zombie guys appearing out of thin air, so I would have appreciated some more scenes building out Sandie's characterization and path.

I was also baffled by Ellie's friend/boyfriend who kept helping her despite her putting him in dangerous situations, screaming about an "attack" with him in the bedroom, and her being a white woman and him being a black man. I don't know if that is different in the U.K. but in the U.S. there is a long history of white women wrongfully accusing black men of sexual violence and it was really odd that this wasn't even addressed in the movie?

Anyway, I loved the first section and was expecting a different type of movie, more of a mystery/subtle haunting, but this is my bad for reading the "horror" genre description and thinking it was more psychological horror instead of an actual "stabbing a knife into a body again and again, zombies rising from the grave" slasher film.
posted by rogerroger at 8:12 AM on November 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Casting Diana Rigg was excellent. We had just been watching her play the grandma in Detectorists.

I cringed when Ellie put her drink down in the basement bar before going to the toilet near the beginning. (Where she overheard Jocasta being horrible.) I'm still wishing Jocasta had gotten comeuppance for drugging Ellie's drink. It's heavily implied she did, and I'm not sure if Jocasta is in the ending scene, so perhaps her clique ratted her out and she'd been expelled. Anyhow, that's twice Ellie could have been drugged very easily, so it's sort of a passing cautionary tale right there.
posted by Catblack at 7:43 PM on November 20, 2021

God, that was wonderful, So many "ah hah!" moments that _yes_ the director is leading you in to, obviously, but it feels good and right and mmmph. I got the goosebumps at the very end when you figure out what happened to Sandie, and loved how the music really played into the plot if you were paying attention.
posted by Kyol at 6:55 PM on November 21, 2021

If there's a complaint I have after sleeping on it, I sort of wish they managed to keep the whole is it a dream, is it a thing that actually happened, is Ellie getting drugged into it, is it just whatever it is that makes her see her dead mother, etc - I wish they had kept that going for longer, because once it flipped to Terrorizing Ellie it got a lot more straightforward. I mean, it was necessary to resolve the plot eventually, but the movie felt like it lost the fine line between hallucinations and reality earlier than I think they might have wanted to, and that whole period when they were swapping out Ellie for Sadie was just delicious mindfuckery.
posted by Kyol at 5:45 AM on November 22, 2021

I saw this at the cinema a couple of days ago and I really enjoyed it. I don't really have any more to add to what verstegan has written. That first delve into Sandie's 1960s is fantastic. I want to see the film again just to pick up on the visuals I probably missed on first viewing.

I very much liked Ellie's reaction to Sandie and the very end of the film.

I don't know if that is different in the U.K. but in the U.S. there is a long history of white women wrongfully accusing black men of sexual violence and it was really odd that this wasn't even addressed in the movie?

That isn't really a major cultural thing here. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it is not something that came to mind when I was watching the scene. Mrs Collins does ask Ellie if John had attacked her, but after the screaming and breakages it is the kind of thing you would ask.
posted by antiwiggle at 4:18 AM on November 24, 2021

My first thought in that scene was also "oh shit, this is super dangerous for him". I'm not sure that that's a thought that would necessarily occur to the majority of white Americans, but I think it would be a common reaction among white Americans with anti-racist political commitments, certainly. The terribly American part of me that reads the world in an American lens wonders how much it's not a thing in UK, versus how much it might be a thing but not one in popular awareness.

I loved the way that Ellie was Sandie but also was just watching Sandie in the 60s scenes, and how fluidly the film could switch between the two. Very visually creative and a lot of fun.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:27 AM on November 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Late to this party, but saw it last night and really enjoyed it. Halfway through, we'd heard two or three songs that we were familiar with from '80s / '90s covers by more recent artists -- which got me wondering if the bulk of the songs on the soundtrack were songs from the '60s that became popular covers later on, and if this is Edgar Wright being Very Clever Indeed by peppering the movie with music that also establishes a modern/'60s resonance by people born post-'70s recognizing the songs and then realizing they're hearing '60s originals and not the more modern famous cover versions.

Liked it a lot on the whole; I had some trouble with the same issues around Eloise's boyfriend being trapped in the bedroom when she was screaming about sexual assault; Canadian, but definitely had the "well, this is how he gets murdered by the police" gut nausea that I suspect a lot of North Americans would have immediately felt.

At some point in my life, I've started to play little Edgar Wright "smash cut" sequences in my head when I do things around the house that are routine but composed of discrete actions (take a soda from the fridge, pop the tab, pour it in a glass, have a drink; cut slices of cheese, put them on bread, toast in the toaster oven, squirt of ketchup -- I visually see this in his smash-cut direction style as I do these things) and it was a bit surprising to get to the end and realize we hadn't seen any of this. Which is fine! He can do different stuff! I just thought it was his go-to thing. Amazing other visual ingenuity, especially the Ellie/Sandy mirror-play sequences.
posted by Shepherd at 2:15 PM on November 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

So I really wanted to see this when it came out but I somehow forgot about it before it got to streaming. Tonight I was looking for something to watch on hbo and when I saw this was available, I finally watched it. I have to admit I was suspicious of Rigg out of the gate with her pointed comment of having too many memories here and Sandie being in that apartment, I was pretty sure I knew what was going on there. As a result, I wish the movie had lingered a bit longer on Sandie's descent into prostitution as the transition seems sudden. And also I would have enjoyed Ellie being able to enjoy her double life more as she seems to consistently get the fuzzy end of the lollipop. But overall, I really enjoyed the movie. Nice stinger there at the end.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:34 AM on July 26, 2022

This movie felt like an odd blend, and it didn't really work for me. The phrase "cozy giallo" comes to mind. Those words don't fit together well and neither does this movie.

It's missing something, something that would complicate the very basic mild horror ending, something to do besides more of Thomasin McKenzie running around in fear. It's annoying she even did the thing where she goes to do some research in the library, but that's interrupted with more fear and then almost stabbing Jocasta, something that should have external consequences but then kinda doesn't. Sort of like how Baby Driver was a heist movie that somehow didn't really have a heist in it, this is a horror movie that doesn't really have any horror in it.

I feel like it needed to go somewhere batshit, it needed to go out of control, but it doesn't, it just kind of repeats itself louder.

I thought the ending was going to be fake, too.
posted by fleacircus at 3:24 PM on July 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

I may be wrong but the stinger suggested to me that this last sequence was all a dream, which would work because it's just too perfect and that last image suggesting Ellie is now imprisoned like the other victims. I agree the movie is problematic, but I was taken in by the costumes and some of the performances. I was also someone ostracized for loving things from the 50s. I don't find it entirely successful, but I found it entertaining while I was watching it.
posted by miss-lapin at 6:01 AM on July 27, 2022

I didn''t see a stinger, just photos during the credits of empty Soho streets in the late night / early morning. What was it?
posted by fleacircus at 8:12 AM on July 27, 2022

To me the stinger is she turns to face the mirror to see her mother and sees Sandie and they touch again through the mirror. This means to me this happy ending could all be bs, which seems likely.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:25 AM on July 27, 2022

One thing to me doesn't make sense is Sandie trying to kill Ellie. Ellie has been dismissed as crazy. She's in no danger. Whereas killing Ellie might bring more unwanted attention. If she managed to avoid attention all this time, it seems like a very strange slip up.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:27 AM on July 27, 2022

Oh, I read that as: Ellie was at peace with Sandie; Ellie meant it when she was saying like, "No I get it, I'm not going to tell, idc that you killed those 13 dudes"; she wasn't just saying it to not get murdered. (It reminded me a little of The Night House what with a surprise floorboards-stuffing serial killer with an excuse; I don't like this storytelling twist lol.) And also how the ghosts of her victims ask her for help and she says no.

In this case I think Wright's saying that he still loves 60s Soho, but also, death to its misogyny. (Sort of the opposite of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood which was like, "sure the era sucked, but this is my fantasy and I'm wishing life upon it.")

Idk maybe I would have liked it if there'd just been a bit less "omg ghost dudes aieee". Like if the modern day stuff was a little weightier; if Jocasta was not cartoonishly mean; if Ellie wasn't always requiring and getting unconditional unwearying support from her grandma, her teacher, her kinda-bf. I keep coming back to that moment when she almost stabs Jocasta with scissors, but doesn't, but nothing seems to come of it, as the moment the movie blew it for me.
posted by fleacircus at 5:49 PM on July 27, 2022

Also it's strange how the ghost hickie hints at some kind of important dream transference mechanism that will be important, but they don't do anything with that.
posted by fleacircus at 6:02 PM on July 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention this-I really wanted Ellie to be like "Why would you want your brand name to be 'I married my son, had his children, and hung myself?'
" I mean there is one very famous Jocasta.

On reflection, the writing isn't particularly strong, but it's disguised by the format. You don't get to know either main character that well really and the supporting characters are more functions than characters. I remain more intrigued by Sandie than Ellie. She is so confident initially it's hard for me to see how she was so easily sucked in by Jack. If he at least made some pretense of getting her better gigs it would make it more believable.

I do like that Ellie doesn't side with either Sandie or her victims in the end. Sandie shouldn't have been murdering these dudes, but they shouldn't have been exploiting her (particularly Jack coming in with that victim blaming in the end).

As for her going back to having brown hair at the end. I think it would be even better if she went for a completely new look instead of just reverting to her old hair. Like something influenced by the 50s although still in brown would have indicated that she is now finding her own look/vision.
posted by miss-lapin at 8:04 AM on July 28, 2022

Laura Crone did an excellent video essay about what worked and what didn't - 1hr Youtube video, if you're into that kind of thing. She does a good job of putting into words some of my feelings. I had a wonderful time in the theatre, but the more and more I thought about it afterwards, the more it broke down. A thrilling ride, but I want a movie to be better the more I think about it, not worse. A bit of a beautiful and confused mess.
posted by Glier's Goetta at 8:32 AM on July 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

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