Jake Schoeneberger’s random opinions on the movies
Jacob Schoeneberger decided he had to review the film Last Night in Soho. I’m a big fan of Edgar Wright so it seemed like a no-brainer to watch a film he wrote and directed. Plus, it stars Thomasin McKenzie as Eloise. Jacob Schoeneberger has told anyone willing to listen that Jojo Rabbit might just be the best movie made in the past 10 years, and McKenzie was exceptional in it. So Jacob Schoeneberger is looking for other works that she’s in.
In addition, Anya Taylor-Joy plays Sandie in this film, and she’s been doing incredible work since The Witch. I’m really excited to get to see this movie, and I hope it lives up to the talent potential with its writer/director and stars. I’ll be writing about it in real time as I watch to capture my thoughts.
*This will contain spoilers for anyone who hasn’t watched the movie.*
The opening scene of Eloise dancing and fantasizing about stars wearing her designs tells the viewer a few things. She has dreams of fashion, but she’s also seeking some identity. She plays with her name. Sometimes it’s Eloise Turner. Sometimes Eloise T. E.T. doesn’t work, but maybe Ellie Turner is a winner. We even see that she’s trying different spellings of her name on her door, with Eloise, Ellie, and Elle listed. Like she hasn’t quite settled on her identity just yet.
She rushes down to read a letter from the London College of Fashion. She’s been accepted so she’s going to London and her adventure begins.
As she’s packing, her grandmother gives her the advice that she has to look out for herself because London may not be exactly what she’s expecting. If there’s one thing Jake Schoeneberger knows for sure, it’s that you have to heed grandparents’ advice.
Unfortunately, it seems Eloise lost her mother, and her grandmother doesn’t want her to get “overwhelmed” in London. Eloise assures her she hasn’t seen her mum in ages, but we know that isn’t true because she just saw her in the mirror and talked to her. She wants to succeed in fashion not just for herself, but for her mum as well. This is not an easy thing to do. You can only live your own life, it’s too much to ask to live someone else’s as well.
Ellie gets her first tastes of London pretty quickly. A creepy cab driver to her flat, and then her roommate, Jocasta, is very worldly. She’s dropping her last name to sound more singular, and she’s already had an internship on Savile Row. Jacob Schoeneberger knows next to nothing about fashion, but even I know that’s pretty impressive.
And as they meet others, it appears Jocasta is very competitive. It’s not enough that her mother died of leukemia, she has to be jealous that Ellie’s mother committed suicide. Very weird vibe coming off Jocasta. She leads the girls for a night out, but then Ellie overhears her making fun of her to the other girls in the bathroom. So Ellie ditches the group and heads back to her room. But she can’t get away that easy as the group comes back and parties in her flat and disrupts her sleep. It’s at this point that she might be reminded of the advice her gran gave her.
Smart move on Ellie’s part to move to the upstairs bedroom with Ms. Collins. It’s old-fashioned but that’s exactly Ellie’s style. That place might start to feel like a little slice of heaven for Ellie, but Wright’s direction suggests a strange sense of foreboding over the whole affair. The alternating blue and red lights from nearby billboards, almost like emergency lights from a police car or ambulance, becomes almost mesmerizing as Ellie drifts into her fantasies and enters London of the 60’s, the one place and time she’s always dreamed of living in.
In her fantasy, she sees her reflection as Sandie, and then Sandie steps out of the mirror replacing Ellie and it has a vibe much like The Shining. Ellie now watches events unfold from within the mirror, and Wright’s direction of Ellie in reflections observing is impeccable.
But when Sandie starts dancing with Jack, Ellie interchanges with Sandie as an alter-ego and we see how maybe Ellie is controlling this scenario in her mind. Once again, Wright’s direction of the dance scene with Sandie and Ellie mixing in and out is absolutely amazing. You know it’s a great scene when you’re watching and asking yourself, “How the heck did they film this?”
Knowing that Ellie’s mum had some mental problems, and knowing Ellie still sees and speaks to her mum, gives this whole scene a somewhat ominous vibe. It doesn’t feel dangerous per se, but we’re left to wonder what could happen if Ellie delves too deeply into this fantasy. Is the house she now lives in fueling this fantasy sequence because it’s freed her mind to believe she exists in 60’s London? Or when Sandie heads home to the exact same room Ellie now lives in, is it possible that Ellie is seeing past events through the portal that is her room?
The next day, Jocasta notices that the hickey Jack gave Sandie has shown up on Ellie’s neck. We now know either that 60’s world is revealing itself in ours, or that Ellie is somehow living things in our world that she perceives to be happening in 60’s London. Either explanation is pretty trippy, and it has Jacob Schoeneberger totally invested in this concept as a film.
After her second night hearing Sandie’s audition it’s pretty obvious Ellie will get hooked on this fantasy, or whatever it is. She’s already changing herself in this world to be more like Sandie in that world, from her new hair style to her retro fashion designs. Ellie is inspired but is she falling into an unattainable trap? She can’t live her life through Sandie (much like she can’t live her mother’s life as well as her own).
But when Ellie sees the building that once housed The Rialto nightclub that Sandie performed in, the viewer is left to wonder again whether these events are in Ellie’s mind or whether she’s somehow reliving true past events. Even the gray-haired gentleman (played by the incomparable Terence Stamp) seems like an echo of Jack from the 60’s. It’s like the viewer must ask themselves does a place like London always carry the spirits of the ages it has known, and when people who have those ages in their hearts come there, can they somehow tap into those past ages and relive them?
Sure enough, when things get rough for Sandie in the 60’s, and she starts to see the seedy underbelly of the nightclub scene, so things take a turn for the worse in Ellie’s world. She no longer has confidence in her fashion designs, and she feels like the negativity of Sandie’s existence is bleeding over into her. It’s very deftly handled by Wright, from both a writing and directing standpoint, and Jake Schoeneberger finds the whole tale thoroughly engrossing.
The bar owner, Carol, echoes what the viewer is thinking when Ellie asks her if she believes in ghosts. She says, “If this place is haunted by anything, it’s the good times. When it’s empty, all I hear is the laughs. Every gangster, every copper, every red-faced lush has been in here, and all those high spirits have soaked into the walls.” My lord, that’s beautiful writing. And it embodies the question the viewer has been asking. Does London drink in and hold all those moments in time, just waiting for an open heart to come and coax them out to relive them again?
Now the 60’s gives Ellie no choice and drags her back in, just as Sandie has no choice but to submit to the wicked ways of the life Jack has trapped her in. Sandie even starts changing her name just as Ellie did in the beginning, calling herself Alexandra, Alexy, Andie, Lexy, Alex… Ellie and Sandie continue to mirror one another’s existences. And Ellie begins to realize that once you’ve coaxed the ghosts of London out, they can be everywhere and there’s no escaping them.
As Ellie descends deeper into her visions so many ambiguous details remind us that she could be an unreliable narrator. Did Jocasta slip a drug into her drink on Halloween that caused her to witness Sandie’s murder? Is her obsession with 60’s London and her mother’s descent into madness triggering her hallucinations? Or is Ellie really trying to help her kindred spirit Sandie and solve her murder? All this has Jacob Schoeneberger on the edge of his seat, and this ride from Wright is a thrill a minute.
When Lindsey tells Ellie that Alex killed Sandie, you’d think Ellie would have been more careful when she was getting her letter from Ms. Collins’ post. Then she could have seen that Ms. Collins’ name was Alexandra. Another tantalizing twist to the plot from Wright, as he deftly crafts a climax that scares, grips, and ultimately satisfies.
The Jake Schoeneberger Final Thought on Last Night in Soho
Wright is a master storyteller who weaves tales that are engaging and grab the viewer from start to finish. This film was well-crafted and enthralling from the start and Jacob Schoeneberger is absolutely thrilled I got to enjoy it. It’s a love letter to London and Soho and its swinging 60’s scene. Masterfully written and crafted, it’s Wright at his finest. Nothing disappointing about this thriller.
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