Last Night in Soho

Last Night in Soho ★★

Steve Spielberg’s West Side Story remake is just a few weeks away now and I imagine the discourse will be a mess. With movies like this there is an inevitable news cycle of criticism, apologies, all strange and valid at the same time.

Rachel Zegler apologizes for colorism in West Side Story: “We will do better for the community moving forward”

After misconduct allegations, Spielberg defends casting Ansel Elgort: “He was a gentleman on set, we didn’t know. This is disheartening”

Spielberg and Tony Kushner defend telling interracial love story: “We’re immigrants too”

The optics of two white Jewish men in their 60s and 70s being the authors of a Puerto-Rican immigrant musical fantasia is certainly a dying gasp of the way things used to work. The only reason Spiegs and Kush get to do it in 2021 is because they’re the absolute kings of their industry, the most accomplished and adulated possible men in their field with a wild amount of capital. Also they’re fucking old and not playing the same game everyone else wants to (has to??) moving forward, which is intersectional collaboration.

It feels like for a lot of white men now, intersectional collaboration is a hall pass to tell whatever story you want and a shield against criticism. Damon Lindelof gets to interrogate the Tulsa Wall Street Massacre of 1921 and the black experience in America because the Watchmen writers room was half black. Wes Anderson gets to make his little dollhouse out of Japanese culture in Isle of Dogs because Kunichi Nomura has a Story By credit. And Edgar Wright gets to use sexual violence as a thematic color in Last Night in Soho because he co-wrote the script with Krysty Wilson-Cairns.

I’m framing it super cynically, but often the fruits of making things together like this are wonderful and the people aren’t doing so solely for political cover. I freaking loved Watchmen! It feels weird to play air traffic controller regarding who gets to tell what story. But people criticize the whiteness of Wes Anderson’s universe and so one time he flew to Japan to play and the resounding consensus was “uhhh, nevermind. You can just stick to twee white shit.” The problem isn’t that Wes Anderson exists, it’s the fact that more people who don’t look like him don’t exist alongside him in the same tier of artistic carte blanche.

I don’t know man! I was pretty dazzled by the first half, the choreography of the initial time-travel dream sequences made me tear up in gorgeous precision, the same sense of love in craft that you can feel all over Scott Pilgrim. But then it just feels like costumes and bad imagination. Of course you have to have a line explaining why an 18 year girl has the music taste of a 47 year old man. But I’ll echo Ayo's review and say, despite Cairns, Soho plays like a guy’s clumsy guess at a woman’s fears.

I walked out of the theater with a vague sense of enjoyment that has depreciated each passing day. It’s a bummer because it’s literally only one of two movies I’ve seen in theaters this year NOT based on pre-existing IP. But maybe Wright’s better off telling stories with Michael Cera or Simon Pegg as a thin cipher for his vision of the world.

To contradict myself one last time, I’m not advocating for a girlbossification ethos of story-telling power in which replacing every symbolic oppressor with their aesthetic opposite equals progress. Cause look, Queen and Slim, written and directed by black women, SUCKED imo!! I just feel less weird about it sucking when I feel like I know who’s responsible and who’s merely being used.

Most importantly, I knew next to nothing before watching Soho and thought, for real, it was about Anya Taylor-Joy being a robot. It wasn’t about that. But if it was, I hope Edgar Wright would’ve collaborated with a robot to write the screenplay. Two stars!

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