Netflix’s new satirical thriller, “Velvet Buzzsaw,” takes on the contemporary art world with every character and cliché you could have ever imagined. A brooding Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a discerning art critic. The beloved “Stranger Things” star Natalia Dyer shows up as a shy assistant with a hidden agenda. John Malkovich shows up as none other than a marvelous exaggeration of himself. What more could you want from a cast?
These immaculately created characters find themselves in a curated world rife with airpods, vapid selfie-taking, and gold Suorins filled with hash oil. This world is eerily similar to the upper echelons of our own, where air kisses are given with abandon in certain circles and everyone looks slightly like a pretentious Edna Mode from “The Incredibles.”
Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, the filmmaker behind 2014’s “Nightcrawler,” this sleek universe at first glance promises an enticing storyline with playfully animated credits, tense music and deliciously pretentious one-liners. The incredible cinematography and set design lends itself to perspective and prioritizes the observation of any certain space from all different angles. Jake Gyllenhaal, highlighted with this background, dominates the focus as a leading man with his expressive eyes and all-too-accurate mannerisms of a storied art critic that are sometimes on the verge of turning into a caricature. As the film progresses though, it begins to jump the shark with scenes that become increasingly gruesome and bizarre. The sly subtle tone established at the beginning of the project morphs into a cartoonish sequence of events which make it very clear that we are watching a movie instead of experiencing a world. At certain points “Velvet Buzzsaw” is almost disappointingly awkward and just as superficial as the world it is trying to emulate. The spectator gets lost in a repeating cycle concerning all the characters that has no clear direction or resolution –– that of which does not amount to much of anything at all.
Even with its many faults, I still enjoyed the film as the plot was amusingly mysterious and dark enough while still succeeding in conveying a cynical portrait of the superficiality of modern American life. It especially touched on ideas of consumerism, narcissism and social media usage. It also explored in detail the ethical implications and consequences that come with using art to serve one’s own capitalist desires which I found was juxtaposed nicely with the vapidity of the characters and their actions. Though the film was far from perfect, you must not pass up watching this film, if only to witness Jake Gyllenhaal wearing horn-rimmed glasses use the word “mesmeric” copious amounts of times or delightfully critique someone’s choice of casket at their funeral.