The word “fun” best describes the Swingin’ Sixties sounds layering the musical playlist for Last Night in Soho. Songs add a giddy, light feel to the movie, even though it takes a quick turn from a bouncy opening dance number into a story that eventually reveals ghosts and a knife-wielding psycho.
But then the story’s creative force, Edgar Wright, earned his reputation from projects like the zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, so he knows how to juxtapose disparate genres. Taking his title from a 1960s song with the lyrics, “last night in soho I let my life go,” Wright and his co-writer Kristy Williams Cairns draw inspiration from playful music with a Midnight in Paris love for nostalgia.
Their main character Eloise—yes, the name of a Sixties song—hopes to make it big in the fashion world and one night in Soho she finds herself transported back fifty years in a dream that feels like reality. She sees herself in a doppelganger or alter ego, a young woman named Sandie who also aims at making it big in the city, or downtown as she sings in a variation of the Petula Clark hit. Real, or just a dream? Eloise has no idea but loves the exciting adventure.
Wright’s eye as director captures the past’s magic, with the full skirts, bright colors, and attention to accessories that defined much of the era. He adds another treat, some major sixties stars like Rita Tushingham from A Taste of Honey, Terrance Stamp from The Collector, and Diana Rigg of The Avengers television series. They add spark for the two key leads, Thomasin McKenzie and Anya Taylor-Joy, promising young women recognizable from JoJo Rabbit and The Queen’s Gambit. The two play well off each other, mimicking one another’s moves while hitting both emotional and musical notes.
Visuals and music keep the story afloat, even when it devolves into ridiculous terrain as a dark side of the Swingin’ Sixties emerges. Like those songs—catchy but a bit vapid--Last Night in Soho thumbs its nose at anything serious and proves surprisingly diverting.