I was very exciting to check out the newest feature film from Netflix, since I loved Bird Box so much. The trailer for this was very intriguing and heightened my anticipation. The plot sounded unique and I loved the cast. Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette are all pros and I’ve loved their work in the past. I really didn’t think it was going to be possible for me to not come away with positive feelings, but unfortunately while the trailer is excellent and the cast is extremely talented Velvet Buzzsaw underwhelms.
The film begins by letting us get to know the main characters a bit. We focus a lot on Gyllenhaal’s character Morf, who’s a tough art critc, and on Zawe Ashton’s character Josephina, who’s a very driven assistant. They start out as friends but soon become more than that after her boyfriend cheats on her. We also focus on Rene Russo’s character Rhodora, the head of an art gallery, who’s tough as nails and willing to do a lot to find the next big thing.
After some basic character introduction is done with, we get to the heart of the film. Josephina finds these pieces of art in a her neighbors apartment, who’s recently passed. She and Rhodora decide to sell them because of their immense quality, a chance that was just too good to pass up. Pretty soon after she discovers them, terrible things start happening to everyone involved.
There are good things featured here, with number one being the cast. Jake Gyllenhaal gives a great performance as Morf, really embodying the character. Rene Russo shines as the very greedy Rhodora To be honest, I think she comes out on top here. Zawe Ashton is good, though I got tired of her character after a while through no fault of hers. Toni Collette gives a good performance, but she doesn’t have enough screen time to make too big of an impact. Lastly, John Malkovich is the only real disappointment. His character was a complete waste, I don’t even know why he was in this film. We only see him a couple times and by the end you’re like well why the hell was he even in it? The characters of Morf and Rhodora are for sure the most interesting and entertaining to watch. Josephina wears out her welcome in my opinion, her character is very stereotypically selfish and greedy and it gets old fast.
Another thing I found interesting was the surface level of the plot. The concept of these pieces of art being “haunted” in some way and the mystery of the artist and his past is all very intriguing. But unfortunately, we don’t really get any sort of follow through. The film takes this concept and just goes the usual horror film route, which is frustrating. The ways in which the characters storylines are finished is very stereotypical and uninteresting. I want to see a great cast such as this in a clever thriller that follows through with a concept so complex, not what this film turned out to be. On a more specific note, I won’t say what happens, but the way they wrap things up with Morf is strange and very anti-climactic to me. Another thing that I thought was strange was the way Morf and Josephina first get together. There’s this very blunt, awkward scene in which they sleep together and it all feels rushed and disjointed. There is no build up to it and they have very little chemistry so it feels off.
I’ve already talked about how John Malkovich’s character is so pointless, but his character isn’t alone. I absolutely adore Toni Collette and while she is very good as Gretchen, she is really underutilized here. I kept wishing we were going to see more of her, because she is so engaging. I would’ve much rather seen more of her and less of Josephina. Also these bad things that happen to the characters aren’t that exciting or interesting, they’re just standard horror film tropes. This is another way the film wastes an interesting concept.
All in all, Velvet Buzzsaw is a film that might seem interesting and cool, but it fails to follow through with the cool concept it offers up. Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity and giving us a unique thriller, what we get is a largely stereotypical horror film that underwhelms.