Velvet Buzzsaw Review

Velvet Buzzsaw reunites writer/director Dan Gilroy with the on screen duo of Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo. The trio had previously worked on Gilroy’s directorial debut, Nightcrawler. After the widespread acclaim of Nightcrawler, Gilroy looks to bring that same flair to the Netflix audience. Velvet Buzzsaw debuted on Netflix February 1st. Early reactions to the film are split down the middle.

Velvet Buzzsaw Synopsis

Morf Vandewalt (Gyllenhaal) is a bisexual, world renowned art critic. Morf is known for speaking his mind, and unabashedly defiant of his critiques. On the Miami art scene Morf meets Josephina (Zawa Ashton), an aspiring art exhibitor. She works for Rhodora Haze, a uptight exhibitor and former member of a band called Velvet Buzzsaw. Bored with the relationship he has, Morf begins an affair and eventual relationship with Josephina.

Josephina stumbles upon one of her neighbors, Ventril Dease, from her apartment unconscious and unresponsive. After asking for a neighbor to call 911, Josephina enters the apartment of Dease. There she finds a mirage of paintings and artwork from Dease. Knowing the art could be confiscated or destroyed, Josephina takes the work for herself.

Haze discovers the work in Josephina’s apartment and demands that they exhibit the art. Josephina refuses at first, but comes around after Haze convinces her this is what her dreams are. The two display the work of Dease for the public and to much acclaim. Vandewalt is enamored by the work. He begins to see visions or apparitions in the paintings. The art scene is taken by storm by the work of Dease. But the work of Dease may be more sinister than just art imitating life.

What I Liked About Velvet Buzzsaw

Velvet Buzzsaw is at it’s best when it is a straight satire of art and criticism. The comedic aspects of the film work perfectly. The witty dialogue, especially from Morf, is where the film shines. Using film as the canvas to tell a story on art and the criticism that goes with it is a great concept. Film is the greatest amalgamation of all forms of art, including music, acting, and visuals. The film shines when it focuses on taking jabs at these forms of art.

Jake Gyllenhaal once again provides a great performance as Morf Vandewalt. He sinks himself into the character and delivers a performance that is drastically different from any role he has been in before. Gyllenhaal is backed by a great cast that includes Russo, John Malkovich, Toni Collette, and Natalia Dyer.

What Could Have Been Improved With Velvet Buzzsaw

Velvet Buzzsaw is in theory a clever concept. Art coming to life and creating nightmares for those who have been corrupted by it. As stated, the film works best when it is a satire of criticism. Where it falls apart is when the horror and supernatural aspects come into play. The scenes involving the artwork coming to life are something straight out of the Goosebumps television series. It is isn’t scary and in many ways is comical.

The film fails to find any protagonist to latch on to. The moral of the story is that this ensemble of people have become corrupted by the art, yet we never get a character that is not corrupt. The closest we come to is Natalia Dyer’s character Coco. She is a fresh faced assistant, but nothing is really known about the character. Gilroy has delivered two great character pieces with Nightcrawler and Roman J. Israel, Esq. It is disappointing to see characters thrown to the wayside in Velvet Buzzsaw.

Velvet Buzzsaw is unfortunately bogged down by too many concepts thrown into one film. It is unsure if it wishes to be a satire of the arts, a supernatural horror film, or a triangle romance film. The film works for the most part with it’s satirical commentary on criticism and art. The only problem with this is that we have seen it done before and better. Just look to Season 11, Episode 4 of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Final Thoughts on Velvet Buzzsaw

Dan Gilroy provides a mishmash of genres in his disappointing follow up to Nightcrawler. The film never fully follows through on what it sets up. It fails as a horror film. The film fails as a character piece. It only half succeeds as a satire. Velvet Buzzsaw is an overall unfulfilling film that will only make you wish that Danny DeVito would show up in a Sia wig.

OverallĀ ScoreĀ 2.25/5

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About the Author
Casey Kelderman found a love for film at a very early age. One of his earliest memories of watching movies was the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. Casey graduated from The University of Sioux Falls in 2017. At USF Casey produced weekly movie reviews and hosted a radio show. He graduated with a degree in Media Studies. Skills he learned in college have allowed him to help create Back Lot 605. He has produced and directed 4 short films. His favorite films include Halloween, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Die Hard.
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