Dan Gilroy brings the avant-garde critical world of "Velvet Buzzsaw" to life in this movie about an unknown artist's paintings being discovered which unleashes a supernatural force on those who use his art as a form of greed. Its a satire against the vicious art critic world that builds their life around critiques and never being impressed. In disguise as a horror film, "Velvet Buzzsaw" pokes fun at the commercialism in the gallery scene, and is a pretty self-aware movie... but does fall under being an underwhelming slow burn. Sad to say the trailer reveals almost all the vital scenes of the movie, which makes the movie even more disappointing to watch. The film's a fun watch because of its awareness, but it just doesn't ice the cake with its satire.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays "Morf Vandewalt," an ego-centric art critic who can't help but comment on the aesthetics of everything around him. Rene Russo, plays "Rhodora Haze" an ex-punk artist turned gallery owner as a "purveyor of good taste." Toni Collette plays "Gretchen," the platinum blonde bob-cut art curator turned art adviser trying to fake it till she makes it. Along with these characters comes Zawe Ashton's "Josephina" a gallery receptionist who steals a vast amount of dark paintings from her neighbor which sets off the supernatural world these characters succumb too. With such a talented ensemble, the passion of each actor's characters is what redeems the movies plot-holes and pretentious undertones.
Velvet Buzzsaw's parodic humor does shine when it comes to Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Morf. His undeniable passion in his character is infectiously hilarious and admirable, you can totally tell Gyllenhaal was having so much fun playing a douchey art critic. Josephina being the key to the movie's entire upside down is a clever choice, but it still leaves multiple questions to be answered on the context of the supernatural force. The unknown artist for those paintings provided a wish that all his art would be destroyed, but in the hands of fame-hungry connoisseurs, things start to turn around when these characters try to advance their careers using someone else's art causing the vengeful spirit to arise. Josephina starts out as a promising character, but lacks character development.
The movie does a good job of painting itself as a horror to express that credit should be given where credit's due and that greed will only take you into a darker path. The lack of respect for the artist's wishes and the gluttony of artistic acceptance and fame is what the movies satire is behind. It also asks the bigger question on if it's right to profit off a dead person's art? The movie touches on a bunch of serious questions in the art world, it pokes fun at the pretentious atmosphere of art galleries and exposes the greed of art curators who think they're better than they are. Its an ironic shove to critics in the real world.
The disguise of being a mediocre supernatural flick is a witty and fun idea for this genre-hopping movie, but it doesn't deliver the full punch. If the horror elements weren't as half-baked, and the satire was taken up a notch then this movie would have excelled a lot better. It's a unique setting, the haunting of an art gallery, the art pieces displayed, overall its visually beautiful and dazzling. Despite a lack of reasoning, there is a lot of charm in this movie, and it seemed like it was made under a fun and light-hearted atmosphere of actors just having the time of their lives on a genre-bender movie.
With an evil phantom prancing around artwork to artwork collecting bodies and the snobby passion behind these artistic characters, Velvet Buzzsaw is a humble sarcastic horror flick that at most times is boring and underwhelming but does bring a wider lens on the dynamics of a greedy industry.
Final score: 5/10