As a fully paid up member of the Church of Wrightology (for me the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is only bested by the Lord of the Rings trilogy), I have been excited about his latest film, horror-fantasy Last Night in Soho, since its announcement. I am therefore aggrieved to report that it easily ranks as his worst film to date, though that is more a statement on the quality of his previous work than it is a damnation on Last Night in Soho.
The film starts off well enough, our heroine Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) whisked off to London College of Fashion to pursue her dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Upon meeting her roomie Jocasta, a caricature-like depiction of cliquey meanness, she quickly realises her quiet upbringing in rural Cornwall makes her somewhat of an outcast in the brash world of the big city. Choosing to live elsewhere, she finds a bedsit to rent from the elderly Miss Collins, portrayed in unsurprisingly satisfying fashion by Diana Rigg in her final role before her death last year.
However upon her first night there she is transported to 1960s Soho in the body of an aspiring singer called Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy in stunningly regal form). Looking to worm her way into the 1960s showbiz industry, Sanidie becomes acquainted with Matt Smith’s Jack, a manager who works with all the girls trying to make it, who quickly woos Sandie (and by extension Eloise) with his gallant and chivalrous charm. Waking up the next morning, Sandie becomes Eloise’s fashion muse, in class she beavers away at recreating Sandie’s ravishing attire, and style inspiration, she dyes her hair blonde.
And all of this is intensely watchable, from McKenzie’s quirky magnetism (she’s easily the best thing about the film) to the dazzling assurance of Wright’s direction. The 1960s scenes look and sound amazing, an ode to the sensationalism that has often surrounded that era. However, before long Wright and co-screenwriter Krysty Wilson-Cairns take us behind that glossy veneer and it’s here that the idealised world Eloise had always imagined begins to fall apart around her.
In Sandie’s shoes, Eloise quickly realises Sandie was deceived by Matt Smith’s handsome swagger and that for every Cilla Black there’s a hundred dancing showgirls beguiled into a life of degradation. As Sandie descends deeper into the murky underside of London, Eloise finds her experience increasingly harder to bear. And unfortunately, so did I. The final act is a barrage of tedious non-surprises and schlocky nonsense which undoes all the good work done up to that point.
While the ending is a massive letdown, the final scene in particular is honestly godawful in its peppy and over-the-top gaiety, there is still a lot here to enjoy. The performances are across the board pretty good, including a devilishly sinister Terence Stamp, Wright’s direction is apart from the puerile finale reliably confident and the soundtrack is a raucous riot of fun. A distance away from the lofty heights of Wright’s filmography, Last Night in Soho is a decent enough romp through 1960s London.
This review was written by Oli Gamble, member of the thatfilmbloguk team, American and Canadian Studies student, and co-host of the thatfilmbloguk podcast.