Art culture is a different world entirely. When you’re an artist and your work is discovered, you’re thrust into spaces of snobbery and pretentious smiles that only see dollar signs in what you make. Or so I’m told. I’m not an artist, I can’t draw a straight line but I seem to be surrounded by them all the time and the few brushes I’ve had with “art culture” have always been weird and frankly a bit surreal. It’s not my lane so I stay far from it, but I do enjoy a good take on that world every now and then. Netflix’s newest movie “Velvet Buzzsaw” has provided just that, with a talented cast and horror tone I’ve been excited about this movie since I first heard of it. And it didn’t disappoint me.
When Josephina discovers mesmerizing artwork left behind by her recently deceased neighbor Dease, she decides to team up with her boss Rhodora and make a profit since the artist was virtually unknown. Intrigued by the art and the person behind it, Josephina’s occasional fling Morf joins in. He wants to write a book on the man behind the paintings; Morf’s art reviews are held in the highest esteem of those around him. Everyone wants Morf’s opinion on their art. But as he digs deeper into the history of Dease he starts to see disturbing images that move in his paintings.
Velvet Buzzsaw is wildly entertaining, with a superb cast and a story that keeps your attention it’s sure to be a movie that the internet will be talking about for months. Jake Gyllenhaal takes the lead as Morf, an eccentric art critic that is just pompous enough that you’d be annoyed if he wasn’t so damn fine. Even with an awkward haircut, Gyllenhaal charms his way into the role easily. Morf is pretentious, yes but he clearly loves art and has a passion for the pieces he chooses to write about. He likes Josephina far more than she likes him and it shows when it’s Morf that notices something is wrong with the paintings first while those around him get sucked deeper and deeper in. Zawe Ashton’s Josephina seems a bit detached at times but she fits well between Gyllenhaal’s Morf and Rene Russo’s Rhodora who is absolutely vile in the best ways. Rhodora only cares about how much money these creepy paintings are going to make her. No matter who is caught in the crossfires.
Other standouts in the cast are that of Daveed Diggs’s Damrish, an up and coming talent who is in the process of making the transition struggling artist to one that sells pieces for millions of dollars. He’s good and Rhodora wants to keep him in her pocket. He doesn’t have many scenes but he draws you to him every chance he gets. John Malkovich plays Piers, an older artist that seems lost in the internal struggle of whether or not any of his work really matters. Toni Collette and Natalia Dryer play Gretchen and Coco respectively, both characters given the short end of the stick in very different ways. Although some could debate that Gretchen deserved it, she did seem to be getting a little ahead of herself.
There are of course a few flaws in the movie, the plot surrounding the cursed art is hazy at times. A personal grip is the fact that the art killed in pretty mundane ways, I honestly expected more blood. And if you’ve come to be legit scared then you’ll be disappointed, a few scenes have small jump factors but there’s nothing truly scary. All in all though, I really liked Velvet Buzzsaw. The performances from the cast being the biggest reason and the cinematography the next. There are several shots in the movie that I would love to have framed. It’s an entertaining movie which to me is what the heart of all movies should be: entertaining. It’ll be something I play on the regular when I can’t sleep or just need to turn off my brain in a good way.
Netflix should be proud of this one.