‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ Film Review

Grade: D-

Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)

The funny thing about art is how people can have many different interpretations of what it means to them; this could also apply to film, with it being an art form itself. Basically, the world is made of opinions; some good, some bad. In the case of ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’, from writer/director Dan Gilroy of ‘Nightcrawler’, appearances can be deceiving. Based on the trailer, one would expect a supernatural horror film about a series of haunted paintings made by a mysterious artist that died too soon, but after watching the film, they will see a commentary about what it means to be a critic and how it affects others; while this could be seen as thought-provoking and meaningful to some, I managed to see it as nothing more than a deceptive illusion.

‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ has potential to be a masterpiece with its message, yet does not have the support of a working script to match, instead, filling us with dialogue and moments worthy of a ‘Fifty Shades’ movie. How did Gilroy go from writing a whip-smart look at the news and their obsession with finding stories worthy of ratings in ‘Nightcrawler’ to a disappointing, nonsensical look at the art world. You would think bringing back Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo from the prior film would help; while they do give off good performances, they do not save ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ from the critical doom that follows.

Gyllenhaal plays Morf Vanderwalt, an art critic who has seen his fair share of paintings. He is as pretentious as cynical critics come, and his critiques are nothing short of that, as he comments and compares each painting he comes across in a gallery run by Rhodora Haze (Russo), who will never let a good piece of art go to waste, no matter the cost. This proves to be trouble when Vanderwalt’s new lover Josephina (Zawe Ashton) finds a collection of paintings by a dead artist named Vetril Dease; a man who is as mysterious as his paintings.

While these paintings are eye-catching for their disturbing qualities and mysterious nature, they also hold a terrifying supernatural secret causing havoc to those who come in contact with them. Thus we have a supernatural horror film, a mystery, and a satirical drama all rolled into one. 

‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ tries to balance all three genres well, but it gets caught up in its own pretentiousness until it is all over. Toni Collette and John Malkovich help round out the cast as Gretchen, an art curator, and Piers, another artist.

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