Velvet Buzzsaw - 2019
Director(s): Dan Gilroy
Writer(s): Dan Gilroy
Cinematography by: Robert Elswit
Editor(s): John Gilroy
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Zawe Ashton, Tom Sturridge, Toni Collette, Natalia Dyer, Daveed Diggs, John Malkovich and Billy Magnussen
Dan Gilroy exploded on to the scene with 2014's Nightcrawler, a visceral look at the exploitation of the medium of true crime, and how people get rich of the misery and misfortune of others. Add that to the fact that Jake Gyllenhaal delivered one of his greatest performances of his career; one can see how the Gilroy and Gyllenhaal combo would excite any film lover. When Velvet Buzzsaw was announced, I was instantly intrigued, and it became my most anticipated film of the first part of the year. Thanks to Netflix I didn't have to wait long for it and after watching I cannot help to express my feeling of perplexment. Let's talk about it.
The story follows the fine art world. We see many sides of it; Morf (Gyllenhaal), the art critic, Rhodora (Russo) the gallery owner, Gretchen (Collette) the private art consultant, and Piers (Malkovich), the painter. The crux of the story centers around the uncovered artwork of an unknown artist that mysteriously passed away. The viewer immediately becomes transfixed with the painting, to the point that it seems as if they are moving and after their recovery mysterious death start to occur. Gilroy wrote a script drenched in commentary about art, artist and art consumption/criticism. The way art is treated and used as a commodity is a sharp commentary on our society, yet outside of this darkly humoristic look at the art world, the film falls short on its real intention of being a mystery horror thriller. The world Gilroy created is filled with plastic characters that are meant to be a reflection and a criticism of the art world, but it creates a distance between them and the audience. I did not find myself caring for a single character. Gyllenhaal's character was the closest to a protagonist and one with an arc, but it came at a point in the film that I had already checked out. I've heard many say that this is meant to be more of a dark comedy, and maybe I did not find the comedy in it, but I genuinely do not see a single moment in the film that is designed to be comedic.
As for the visuals I expected far more from the duo of Gilroy and Elswit (There Will be Blood & Punch Drunk Love). Yes, some sequences stand out, but the overall feel of the film was generic and a bit plastic. There wasn't a moment in the movie, considering it dealt with the fine art world, that I would take a picture of it and frame it on my wall. The score doesn't jump out at you, and the editing does its best to keep the film moving along, but it is nothing to write home about. The acting is ok all around, with Jake being the stand-out but it is not hard to stand amongst this group barebone performances.
Velvet Buzzsaw was ultimately a disappointment for me. It could be that I came in expecting way too much from it, or it could be that the material did not connect to my sensibilities. Whatever the case may be, I found myself staring at the screen wondering if Nightcrawler were going to be the only thing I would remember the director by. Not a bad way to remembered, but I did have high expectation of him after such an impressive debut. Velvet is not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination, but I find it hard to recommend or express any joy out of my viewing experience. Give it a shot; it is "free" on Netflix if you have the time and let me know what I got wrong about this bland, unfunny, devoid of tension "mystery thriller comedy."
Velvet Buzzsaw is a Streamer!
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