Last Night In Soho (2021)
A bit like Richard Curtis, Edgar Wright is becoming a bit difficult not to like. From Spaced to Baby Driver, via the Cornetto Trilogy and then here (who knows what The Running Man will be like tbh), he has a habit of making very watchable cinema. Granted, it's not always challenging, though usually funny and almost always warm at their core, Wright's project are to be admired, if not particularly lauded.
The same is true here, with a design student magically whisked back to sixties London in her dreams every night as she sleeps mostly soundly in her bedsit in Soho, becoming Sandy, a much more confident but equally naïve girl with eyes for stardom.
Much has been made in the press of just how dark London's darkest corners were at the time, particularly in reference to the treatment of women, misogyny in general and the cloying sense of male privilege on display. Not to say that this isn't true or warranted in the representation here. Given the subject matter, anything else would be selling the story short.
Wright's direction is, as always, very polished and inventive and the design of the piece is as immaculate as I imagine the time and places would have been had I been alive to see them. Like most of his core audience, I expect authenticity here is more believed than proven, as few of them will have been there personally during the hedonistic period on show.
Thomasin McKenzie's Eloise is the Cornish design waif with hopes of becoming something greater than her mother, both despite and because of her. Anya Taylor-Joy plays her sixties alter-ego Sandy, with designs on being the next Cilla Black. A pity then that she runs into Matt Smith's Jack, who promises much more than the saucy revue bar shenanigans she ends up helplessly thrown into. As we have already been warned, London can be too much for lots of innocent wide eyed young girls.
The clout comes from the supporting cast if anything, with turns from Rita Tushingham, Terence Stamp, Pauline McLynn and Diana Rigg. Everyone of them a treat in their own way, little more than cameos, but no less valuable for that fact.
A budget for the soundtrack only would make most directors weep, but it's worth every penny as this conveys at least as much as what is witnessed and it would have been a far less rewarding experience without such a considered playlist to help events move along.
About halfway through and we enter more familiar Wright territory with playful, comic-book, terror-filled menace taking centre-stage, rather than the gentle fantasy-meandering that occupied us for about an hour.
Unlike many Wright pictures, where I was always either on the edge of my seat or simply in awe at the sights, Last Night in Soho perhaps dragged more than most of his previous projects and the two hours felt just like that, rather than zipping by in a magical whirl.
Enjoyable certainly, but this is some way from his best work, even with the benefit of a great cast and delightful visuals. Punching below his weight, in all honesty.