Velvet Buzzsaw: Film Review

I didn’t have much clue about Velvet Buzzsaw except that it starred Jake Gyllenhaal, which was frankly enough for me – I’ll watch anything with him in. But then I learned that he was teaming up with his Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy again and playing an art critic with epic glasses and I was sold. I hardly ever watch Netflix films on the weekend they come out but I couldn’t resist and I’m glad I checked it out.

In this ensemble cast, Gyllenhaal plays bitchy art critic Morf, Rene Russo is tough gallery owner Rhodora and Zawe Ashton is her assistant Josephina, who also happens to have a thing going with Morf. One day Josephina’s neighbour Vetril Dease dies and she finds he was a prolific and talented painter so they “find” his works and promote him as the next big thing. His work sells like hot cakes and collections of his art are held in museums – but it turns out there is something malevolent about his paintings, something very evil indeed.

This film is a mix between horror, supernatural thriller and a satire about the art world. It was way scarier and gruesome than I expected it to be and I was bracing myself for the next death. However, it is also very darkly funny and a captivating watch, thanks to a terrific cast which also includes Toni Collette, Billy Magnussen, Natalia Dyer, Tom Sturridge and John Malkovich.

Gyllenhaaal is such a shapeshifter and I applaud him for going for completely different characters every time and really throwing himself into them, no matter how wacky and offbeat. His mannerisms and whole demeanour were completely fresh as pretentious Morf and I loved his look. Russo was as badass as ever and I was thrilled to see British actress Ashton in a prominent role in this – she deserves this break! Hopefully this will mean more big things for her.

The film has a lot to say about the art world but I didn’t feel like the ideas were completely crystallised at the end. It needed more explanation – why does Dease’s artwork kill people? I would love to know the clear answer to that question, even though it is hinted at a little. I would have loved to see more, maybe with them trying to stop it – perhaps that’s for a sequel? I don’t know, I wanted a bit more depth and clearer ideas.

But that’s a minor niggle. I loved the witty screenplay which was brought to life by a fantastic set of actors, I loved the setting and satire element and it was wildly entertaining.

Streaming on Netflix now 

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