Catch Up Reviews: ‘Last Night in Soho’ & ‘Spencer’

There have been so many films released this fall that I haven’t had time to see them all, but here are two that I have caught on demand that I’d like to say a few words about.

Thomasin McKenzie stars as Eloise and Anya Taylor-Joy as Sandie in Edgar Wright’s LAST NIGHT IN SOHO, a Focus Features release. Credit: Courtesy of Focus Features / © 2021 Focus Features, LLC

Last Night in Soho (dir. Edgar Wright)

Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy both shine in Edgar Wrights latest, a horror movie set in both the pressures of a fashion school in the Soho neighbourhood of present-day London and the nightclub scene of the swinging sixties in the same neighbourhood. Also on hand are Matt Smith as the perfect embodiment of smarm, as well as Terence Stamp and Diana Rigg (in her last film role), all of whom are perfectly cast.

The advertising sold this film as a psychological thriller but let’s make no mistake: it’s a straight-up horror movie, and this is not a complaint. I’m not 100% sure that Wrights sensibilities lend themselves to horror as well as everyone was hoping, but his technical prowess with camera placement, choreography, and editing works wonders, especially in the first act. In particular, there’s an early dance scene with Smith, Taylor-Joy, and McKenzie that has the two women trading places constantly and one of them only existing in the background, and the whole thing is masterful.

Not exactly the fil that you might be expecting from Wright, but well made and acted, and worth seeing for McKenzie and Taylor-Joy all by themselves.

Rating: 3/5

Kristen Stewart as Diana, Princess of Wales in “Spencer”

Spencer (dir. Pablo Larraín)

Here is your reminder that Kristen Stewart is one of our great actresses.

In this imagined three days at Christmas in 1991, Diana Spencer joins the royal family at their Sandringham estate for the holidays. Late into her relationship with Charles, this imagining of what those three days might have been like takes a deep dive into Diana’s psyche and how she might have been dealing with the pressures of living up to the expectations of the Royal Family. Those expectations would weigh heavily on anyone, especially on a young, modern woman whose personality and modern sensibilities clashed entirely with the Royals strict, old school way of doing things.

Stewart completely captures Diana’s mannerisms and distinct, breathy mode of speech and is utterly compelling while she does it. She makes it clear that as much as Diana didn’t fit into the family, she also simply wanted to be accepted for who she was rather than who she was supposed to be. Telling the story over the Christmas holiday and toward the end of her marriage, everything comes to a head in a believable and empathetic way. When the story resolves, you will breathe a sigh of relief for her.

Nuanced and broad, subtle and over the top, this is a performance of contradictions and one that will undoubtedly nab award nominations this season. Don’t miss it.

Rating: 4/5

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