Story Needs Reworked;
but Entertaining with;
In Dan Gilroy‘s directorial debut, Nightcrawler, he takes an inside look at how the news is produced, so there should be no surprise that he is taking another deep dive with Netflix‘s newest release, Velvet Buzzsaw. Most will see this film as being about the art world, or will refer to the multiple genres at play. I find that to be dismissive to what is being said. Writer/Director Dan Gilroy did not simply attempt a “genre mashup”, he wanted to show a mirror to criticism, under the guise of a horror film. In some aspects this was a success. Buzzsaw was not simply a satirical look at the art world or art critics, it was a look at criticism/critique in general. The movie thrived when focusing on this.
The acting in Velvet Buzzsaw is something to be admired. From top to bottom, the ensemble cast clocks in terrific performances. Jake Gyllenhaal is magnificent as ever, portraying an art critic who seems he might know just how full of shit he actually is. The body language and physicality of his acting is on full display, and makes the movie worth watching based off his performance alone. Rene Russo was more of an afterthought, but not because of a poor performance, but merely because the rest of the supporting cast were acting at such a high level. Daveed Diggs and Toni Collette took what was on the page and made it interesting to watch. This screenplay needed that, from these actors.
Throughout its 113 minute run-time, Velvet Buzzsaw makes jumps in time without giving much (any?) notice. This is not inherently a bad thing, but if this was a way to stylize the editing of the film, it was a giant swing and miss. Meaningful moments happen off screen, with the audience merely told through exposition. This makes me think: was there an original cut of this film that clocked in over 2 hours? Gilroy’s first two films were both right around the 2 hour mark, so that is not a telling sign, but the way that Velvet Buzzsaw played out, it felt as if we were missing something. The incoherent nature of the story completely took me out of the enjoyable experience I was having.
The supernatural/horror elements did not fall completely flat, but were certainly not fully realized on screen. This was most likely a factor of leaning heavier into the criticism aspects of the film than those of horror. These aspects are meant to show the destructive nature of criticism, and what comes along with it. While this is clearly an exaggeration, the heavy-handedness of the message worked with the satirical nature of the film.
Velvet Buzzsaw is not a perfect film, by any stretch of the imagination, but there are enough entertaining/working elements that make it a highly enjoyable night on the couch.