Dir. Thomas Hardiman (2022)
A murder has occurred backstage at a regional hairdressing competition in London, and the participants are on lockdown as the police investigate.
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
As I stated in my review of the phenomenal The Stylist, The Morrigan, my co-site runner and overall awesome person, was a hairdresser once upon a time. I'm well aware of the crazy world most beauty professionals live in, from their blood feuds with other artists to their crazy behind-the-scenes-but-embarrassingly-public sex lives that they feel the need to share with everyone who sits in their chairs. It is a world that is rife for commentary and analysis, a subsection of society that is filled with interesting characters and crazy drama. Medusa Deluxe, the new film from director Thomas Hardiman coming soon from A24, delves into this world in a fascinatingly-filmed take on the beauty scene in London.
I'm a huge fan of A24, and it is exceedingly rare that I have not thoroughly enjoyed a film that they've released. This, however, was one that didn't quite strike home for me, despite its intriguing premise. Medusa Deluxe is an attempt at creating a haute couture whodunnit that fails at times to be as clever as it needs to be but is still an overall success due to some incredibly creative camerawork and some pretty impressive acting. It's a witty and character-focused mystery with more than enough charm, and while the humor doesn't always land, there were a few chuckles and an overall dark sense of humor that I appreciated in a film like this.
Almost the entire film was done without any cuts, save perhaps a couple hidden in the film's darker scenery, which I didn't even realize until I was about thirty minutes into the film. The way that the camera winds down the hallway, focusing on a couple of characters at a time in order to tell the whole story, was impressive, reminding me of Gaspar Noe's Climax (a film I'll have to get around to reviewing soon).
Where Noe's recent mindfuck was short on plot but full on style, this one is almost the exact opposite. The plot is there, this murder mystery that takes place behind the scenes of a high fashion hair competition, but the style often feels a bit lacking. For a film that is about fashion and art, it's a bit drab at times, which seems to stand in opposition to the film's intent. Don't get me wrong: the occasional neon of the backstage area and the incredibly intricate hairstyles were quite visually appealing. Most of the film, however, feels subdued and dreary, a contrast to the bright lights and center stage where the artists' work will be showcased. Perhaps this was the intent, an attempt to make the backstage area as dirty as the crime the film centers around, but it feels more like a lack of budget or applicable choice of location than an artistic decision.
By and large, however, the film does work, even if it doesn't hit on all cylinders. The characters, who come into the film in a whirlwind at times, are interesting and well played by the actors responsible for each part. The camerawork really is compelling, especially one particular scene that rises above a street and morphs into the upstairs hallway of the venue. The score, a throwback to the synth-filled 70's and 80's, works perfectly for the film. The successes are far greater than the failures, and they make the film worth watching despite its inability to live up to most of the other films in A24's repertoire.
Who this movie is for: Murder mystery lovers, One-shot camera admirers, Hair artists
Bottom line: There's a lot to love about director Thomas Hardiman's hairdresser whodunnit, but it does fail on several accounts to make as compelling a film as it perhaps should be. It's still an interesting story filled with intriguing characters and some fantastic cinematography, a murder mystery with arthouse flair. Check it out if you're a fan of lowkey mystery and highkey personalities.