Hocus Pocus 2: Nostalgia Is Not Enough.

The witches are back! I could not have been more excited for their return. 

I loved Hocus Pocus when I was younger. I still love the movie today. Every October I look forward to getting cozy and watching Hocus Pocus in the lead up to Halloween. You can read my review of the beloved original by clicking the link below. 

It goes without saying that the movie that became a cult classic was always going to be a very tough act to follow. I enjoyed the sequel. I had a lot of fun watching the movie, but beyond the fun that the nostalgia provided, the sequel’s plot left a lot to be desired. I feel that this is a story that had so much potential, but unfortunately it fell flat. 

Let me explain why nostalgia is just not enough. 

Before I dive into this review, I do want to say that I know this is supposed to be a fun movie for kids and some readers may think I am taking it far too seriously, but I review a broad range of texts here on Katelovesliterature.com, children’s literature included, and I’ve always held the opinion that even if a movie is aimed towards children, the plot can and should still be of good quality. 

I will be drawing comparisons to the original movie as that too was aimed towards children, but the original movie takes its audience seriously, and while the original is not a perfect movie either, the plot had so much more heart, and more importantly, the movie actually had some stakes. 

Let’s talk about the plot of Hocus Pocus 2. The sequel follows Becca and her two best friends Izzy and Cassie as they must figure out a way to defeat the Sanderson Sisters who have returned once again to Salem. 

I have a suspicion that there were many drafts of this script, and I have a suspicion that within the final cut that aired, there were at least three other movie ideas that existed. The plot is messy, and annoyingly lacking. My biggest issue with this sequel is the fact that there are no stakes. 

Let’s talk about the new cast, because before I can elaborate on the lack of stakes, first we need to talk about our new protagonists. I do want to say that I think the actors did a great job, but I feel like all of the new characters had untapped potential. 

Let’s start with Becca. Becca was played by Whitney Peak, and I think that Peak did a fantastic job, but I really wish she had been given more material. Becca is the main protagonist, and one would guess that she is going to be the Max of this movie. This is another problem, one would assume that Becca is the Max of this movie, as she is the main protagonist, however the movie takes a different route and presents Becca as the Winifred of her trio. This just does not work, because Becca and Winifred are supposed to be the protagonist and antagonist respectively. I will elaborate on this point further on in my review, but first I want to discuss the fact that I feel like we barely know anything about Becca, Izzy, and Cassie. 

Becca is headstrong and she has an interest in magic. That is it. That is all we know about her. We don’t meet her parents. We don’t know where this interest in magic comes from. We don’t know what is important to her. Her friends are important to her, but the movie does not set her up as someone who loves her friends more than anything, the movie just sort of tells viewers that she is a good friend. Becca is the leader of the trio, simply because she has more lines than Izzy and Cassie. Cassie is missing for so much of the movie, it is frustrating. It is frustrating because the movie clearly indicates that Becca, Izzy and Cassie are the new generation of witches. Becca is Winifred, Izzy is Mary, and Cassie is Sarah. The girls and the Sanderson sisters are even dressed in matching colour schemes. Becca is wearing various shades of green, Izzy is wearing burgundies along with her hair in a similar half up, half down pony, Izzy is at Becca’s side throughout the entire movie while Cassie has boyfriend troubles, mirroring how Mary is always at Winifred’s side while Sarah is the romantic Sanderson sister. The mirroring is obvious. I don’t mind a “passing of the torch” plot, in fact I think that “passing the torch” storylines can be quite poignant, especially when it comes to childhood classics, the problem I have with this in Hocus Pocus 2 is that the “torch passing” is far too abrupt, and it also doesn’t make any sense. 

Izzy is Becca and Cassie’s best friend. She seems sweet. Her mother is named Susan. Izzy is slightly more nervous than Becca, she does not assert herself as confidently as Becca does. That is it. That is all we know about her, that and the fact that she misses Cassie and is willing to admit it, whereas Becca is clearly more annoyed with Cassie than Izzy is. 

Cassie is the mayor’s daughter. Her father is overbearing. Cassie has a boyfriend called Mike, and because she is dating Mike, she has grown distant from Becca and Izzy. Mike pokes fun at Becca because of her interest in magic and as he calls it, “witchy stuff”. Mike is not malicious, he’s just a bit clueless. Becca and Izzy just want to be able to hang out with Cassie again like old times, without Mike and his friends. They don’t communicate this properly. Cassie feels like she’s been iced out of the group, she does not realise that she’s been distant with her friends, it was not malicious on her part either. Their friendship just needed more communication. That is it. That is all we know about Cassie, that she is dating Mike and Becca and Izzy don’t like Mike. So Cassie is missing for so much of the plot, and that just can’t happen if the movie wants to present Becca, Izzy and Cassie as the new, modern, trio of witches. Winifred, Mary and Sarah are always together. They are a team, a trio. If the movie wanted to have a story about friends growing apart and coming back together to face adversity, that would have been great. I think the team behind the movie thinks that the movie did in fact do that, but the reason behind the girls falling out is flimsy at best, and Cassie is not in the movie enough to establish herself as an integral part of the trio so when the girls do makeup, I don’t care as much about it as the movie wants me to. Cassie being in the group again makes absolutely no difference to their actions. 

The original movie’s plot worked because the movie spent time setting up who Max is, and who is important to him. We know about Max. He is the new kid in town, he misses his old home, he’s not into Halloween the way everyone else is so he is the odd one out in class, he loves his little sister even though she annoys him sometimes, and he has a crush on Alison. 

This information is easy to showcase and it sets up Max’s actions throughout the entire movie. 

He wants to impress Alison because he has a crush on her so he agrees to go to the Sanderson house because Alison loves Halloween and the legend of the Sanderson sisters. Max is cocky, and he does not believe in the story of the Sanderson sisters, so he dismisses all warnings and lights the black flame candle. The rest of the movie follows Max as he has to face the consequences of his actions, he has to undo his mistake and defeat the Sanderson sisters, and he is motivated to do this because despite all annoyances, he does love his little sister and he wants to keep her safe. Max, Dani and Alison are our trio. They are guided through the night by Binx. Binx is a boy who was turned into a cat by the Sanderson sisters after he failed to save his little sister from them so the mirroring in the original is shown through Binx and Max. Max mirrors Binx because he is determined to save his sister, just like Binx was, and Binx is determined to help Max because he couldn’t save his sister so he is determined to ensure that the Sanderson sisters do not win again. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie are not guided by anyone. They kind of just have to figure things out for themselves, which would be fine except there is no real goal. There is Gilbert who owns the magic shop, and originally I thought that perhaps he would play the guiding role, as he is the one who would know the most about magic, but instead Gilbert is a character who is all over the place.

It is revealed that Gilbert created a new black flame candle and tricked Becca into lighting it, because he is obsessed with the Sanderson sisters and wanted to bring them back. It is revealed that he was one of the children in the original movie and he saw the sisters the night Max defeated them, and since then, he has been obsessed with finding a way for them to return.  

In the original, Winifred is obsessed with stealing Dani’s soul and Mary and Sarah loyally follow her through all of her plans. Winifred could have followed through with her plans had she gone after any other child, but Winifred is petty and revenge driven and she felt personally offended by Dani, so she makes it her mission to go after Dani specifically. Max, Alison, Dani, and Binx must find a way to outrun, and defeat them until the sun comes up. 

There is a goal on both sides. Winifred is determined to get Dani, and Max is determined to keep Dani safe. 

In Hocus Pocus 2, this goal does not exist. The movie introduces so many ideas, and there were so many moments where I though “ah okay so this is the story… wait no, now there’s another thing to consider”. 

The movie begins with a flashback to the childhood of the Sanderson sisters in Salem. I really liked the opening shot of this movie. It is a tracking shot of the Salem woods, and this opening shot mirrors the opening shot of the original movie. I loved this. The nostalgia hit immediately and I was excited. In this flashback, we meet young Winifred, Mary and Sarah. It is Winifred’s sixteenth birthday and the reverend wants to marry her off. Winifred refuses. Winifred talks back to the reverend and refuses to bow down to him. The reverend banishes her. Winifred and her sisters flee to the forbidden woods as they know the townsfolk won’t follow them. In the woods, the three girls meet a witch. This witch senses that Winifred is powerful. The sisters are gifted a spell book – the iconic book from the original movie. The witch makes Winifred promise to never do a certain spell, a spell that even Book dislikes. Winifred promises to never do this spell, and the witch tells the girls that a witch is nothing without her coven. The newly powerful Sanderson sisters return to town and wreak havoc by setting the reverend’s house on fire. The sisters, especially Winifred, watch on in delight as the house goes up in flames. 

Title credits and then we are in the modern day. 

When the Sanderson sisters return in this movie, they plan to steal Becca and Izzy’s souls so that they can stay young, but Becca pretends to be older and she leads the sisters to a Walgreens to show the sisters modern anti-aging products to kill some time. The sequel repeats the original gag in which the Sanderson sisters are baffled by modern technology and products. It is funny, but at times it is a little try-hard. I will say though, it is very obvious that Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker were having the time of their lives filming this sequel, and I did love whenever the Sanderson sisters were onscreen. I did laugh at the sisters being baffled by automatic doors, and assuming that Becca must be powerful, because “the doors parted for her”. These are the kind of cheesy jokes that made the original so charming and I did enjoy these jokes again in the sequel, even though there was an undeniable element of the movie saying “look, here is your favourite joke from the original, we did it again.” 

It goes without saying that the jokes and antics of the sisters were not as original as they were the first time around. It was clear that the writers saw what went down well in the original and tried to recreate it, and this just doesn’t work because the success of the original is largely due to the fact that the movie was not trying so hard. 

So the Sanderson sisters originally want to get Becca, because Becca tricked them, but then Winifred decides she is going to perform the forbidden spell – this spell will make her the most powerful witch of all. Winifred needs ingredients for this spell, and she bewitches Gilbert into gathering all of the ingredients for her, but then while he is off doing that, Winifred learns that Cassie’s father is a descendant of the reverend, so she becomes determined to get him and get revenge on the family. 

There are so many things going on which leads me to the biggest problem of this sequel – There are no villains. 

There will be spoilers below as I am discussing the movie’s ending. 

Hocus Pocus 2 is a movie without villains, without threats, and without any real stakes. 

In the original movie, the Sanderson Sisters were iconic because they posed a real threat to Max and his sister. They were villains. They lured children into the woods so they could kill them and steal their young souls so that they may live forever. They were evil – funny, but evil. 

In the sequel, their goal changes so much that at times it is unclear who they are chasing or what they will do when they have caught their target. The forbidden spell is also unclear because aside from Winifred declaring that the spell will make her the most powerful, she never states what she will use this forbidden power to do. As viewers, we can guess that she and her sisters will continue to steal the lives of the children in Salem, but the movie does not present this as a real threat. 

I would have been fine with the movie making Cassie’s father the villain, because the movie clearly attempts to push this idea of standing up to the patriarchy. The flashback to the young Sanderson sisters in Salem clearly wanted to paint a picture of how these three young women were targeted by men in power and outcast because they did not comply. One can think about how historically, this likely did happen. Sadly it is a fact that many innocent women were most likely called witches and persecuted because they did something that was deemed “unconventional” by the town leaders and this kind of plot point can invite audiences to think about who the true villain really is. 

The flashback is rather dark. The idea that a sixteen year old teenager is “of age” and ready to be married off to someone she does not wish to be with is a dark idea and I am surprised that Disney included it considering there seems to be a trend of erasing villains happening in movies at the moment, including in Hocus Pocus 2 itself. The reverend is an arrogant bully and he takes pleasure in setting an angry mob on the young, orphaned Sanderson sisters simply because Winifred defied him. In my opinion, it would have made more sense if Cassie’s father was more menacing than bumbling. He is the mayor, and he is clearly a descendant of the reverend. So in my opinion, it would have been better and it would have made more sense if he was this movie’s villain. He could have hated Halloween, he could have been the one to cause a rift between Cassie and her friends because he disapproved of Becca and Izzy’s interest in magic. The plot would have taken an interesting turn if Cassie had to team up with Becca and Izzy but be torn because she has to go against her father. She would have to make the choice that her father’s hatred of magic and difference is wrong and she would be the one to break the patriarchal cycle of her family. 

If the mayor was determined to beat the Sanderson sisters and they were determined to get revenge on him and his family, then two direct opposites would have had clear goals, and there would have been a key theme of puritan, outdated control vs magic. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie would have fallen into the area of “Look Dad! Not all witches are bad.”

Cassie’s father would have had to learn that not all magic is evil and blanket banning and hatred is not the answer. Becca would have to learn that power comes with responsibility and being obsessed with having all the power is how you end up like Winifred, so she would have to promise to always use magic for good, even though using it for selfish reasons is likely very tempting. 

The Sanderson sisters would have still been evil, and they are an example of what happens when you become consumed by evil, by power and by revenge. 

This did not happen. Unfortunately. 

The mayor is bumbling and nothing happens to him at any time, so the obsession the Sanderson sisters have with “getting him” falls flat. 

The movie’s climax is Winifred performing the forbidden spell with her sisters. What is the catch? Winifred refused to read Book’s warning about the spell – what is the warning? That Winifred will sacrifice what she loves most in order to become the most powerful witch of all. 

What does Winifred love most? We should ask whom does Winifred love most? Mary and Sarah. 

Becca, Izzy and Cassie realise that Winifred is about to unknowingly sacrifice Mary and Sarah so they attempt to tell them. This could have been really interesting. Winifred has always been the most obsessed with power, she has always been the one to proclaim she is the best, and her sisters are idiots. She has always proclaimed to be the prettiest, the all knowing one and she always dismisses and mocks her sisters. 

There is a brilliant moment where Sarah stands up to her and tells Winifred that she is not a fool, she is a good and loyal sister and always has been. This great moment is undermined when Sarah utters out a frantic “yes Winnie” two seconds later. 

The movie also leans into lore and the idea that a witch gets her powers on her sixteenth birthday, and Becca shows signs of having actual magic powers throughout the movie and it is Becca’s magic that helps her and her friends hold the witches off towards the movie’s climax. This is fine, but it kind of detracts from the charm of the original in my opinion. Max and co had to fight the witches off without powers. They relied on lore, they relied on things such as witches not being able to stand on hollowed ground and salt circles to keep them safe. Becca and co do use salt circles, but it is Becca’s powers that leads to the girls standing a chance against Winifred as opposed to the girls having to figure things out without any magic. 

The Sanderson sisters having magic is what made them so threatening in the original movie. They could not step on hollowed ground? Not a problem, Winifred used to her magic to bring Billy Butcherson back from the dead so now Max and co have to contend with a zombie too. 

Becca having magical powers is just another reason on the list of why this sequel is so sloppy. Becca had no inclination of having powers prior to the events of this movie, aside from stating she has an interest in magic, there is no suggestion that she has practiced spells. Her powers arrive and even though she has no idea how to use them, she is a match against Winifred who has been practising dark magic for centuries. Becca is a new witch, with no knowledge about her new powers or how to use them, she should not be able to go toe to toe with Winifred just like that. 

I have another suspicion that somewhere in the drafts archives, there is a script in which Sarah and Mary turn against Winifred because they are sick of being disrespected. Winifred would have become the most evil one of all because she is so obsessed with power that she is willing to sacrifice her sisters and that would have been the last straw for Mary and Sarah. 

In my opinion, it would have been interesting if Mary and Sarah were forced to join forces with Becca and co in order to defeat Winifred, and then the “passing of the torch” moment would have made more sense. Becca’s magic being able to go toe to toe with Winifred’s would have made more sense if she had Mary and Sarah on her side, because despite always being mocked by Winifred, Mary and Sarah are powerful witches who have been practising the dark arts for just as long as Winifred. 

This did not happen. 

What did happen? Let’s talk about it. 

Winifred, Mary and Sarah perform the spell without knowing the price that must be paid because Becca and co do not get there in time. 

The Sanderson sisters are overjoyed with their new powers and Winifred is happily gloating about her next move when Sarah and Mary begin to disappear. 

Becca reads the warning to Winifred, explaining that she has sacrificed her sisters because they are who Winifred loves the most. 

Winifred gives a heartwarming, albeit unbelievably out of character speech about how much she loves her sisters – the theme of the movie becomes clear – a witch is nothing without her coven. 

Winifred pleads with Becca and Book. She asks is there anything that can be done. 

There is one solution. Becca, Izzy and Cassie perform a spell that sends Winifred to her sisters. Winifred is overjoyed to reunite with them and Becca performing this spell undoes all of the spells that Winifred performed, so Billy Butcherson is able to rest in peace at last etc. 

The movie ends with Gilbert apologising for the mess he caused, and Becca, Izzy and Cassie are happily friends again. They skip down the road with Book, they even do the famous and iconic “Sanderson Sisters walk” – If you know you know. 

Credits roll and a post credits scene reveals another black flame candle – hinting that another movie could be possible. 

I am not opposed to a movie being about the power of friendship, but Hocus Pocus 2 is not the movie for that. I don’t want to see Winifred Sanderson begging for help and reminding our new protagonist to always hold her friends dear. I want to see the evil, petty, obsessed with revenge Winifred Sanderson. I want her to be a real threat. I want the Sanderson Sisters to be villains. They are iconic characters because they are villains, but instead of allowing them to be wonderfully and comically evil for evil’s sake, Disney had to make them nice. 

I’m getting increasingly tired of classic villains being undone because for some reason movies cannot just have a completely evil villain now. I am all for nuance and grey areas, in fact I adore grey areas where right and wrong is not easy to establish, however I do not like the fact that pure villains are being removed. It is fun to have a pure villain, it is fun to be scared, it is fun to have real stakes in a movie and just because a movie is aimed towards children, that does not mean that baddies cannot and should not exist. 

Gilbert has a line where he says the Sanderson Sisters are evil “because they had to be but everyone loves them now” and the movie leans into, and is aware of the public love for the Sanderson Sisters – to this I say yes everyone loves them now, but everyone loves them because they are evil. 

They were fantastic villains in the original movie and unapologetically so, and I am very disappointed that they have been reduced to slapstick caricatures of their original selves with no real threat behind them whatsoever. 

With all of that being said, I did enjoy the movie. I had lots of fun. I loved seeing the Sanderson Sisters sing again, and there were so many times where I said “okay if this is what we are doing, I’m okay with it because it is fun”, but despite the fun, the plot is lacking in so many ways and I feel like classic characters have been diminished. 

Hocus Pocus 2 is a movie that could have been fantastic, but the plot is messy and there are too many new characters who have such great potential that sadly was not reached. This is a great example of why nostalgia alone just is not enough and in my opinion, a brilliant example of why it is important that we don’t erase villains. We need villains, we need stakes, and most importantly, we need to return to a time when movies for kids weren’t afraid to be a bit scary, because that is what made them so fantastic. Real stakes, real threats, and real triumphs, that is what we need to recapture in our movies. 

Have you watched Hocus Pocus 2? 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Kate xo. 

Last Night in Soho: A Visually Stunning Mess.

The 2021 film Last Night in Soho has been on my “must watch” list since I saw the trailer. 

Having missed seeing the film in cinemas, I’ve been very eager to see it for the longest time. 

I’m happy to say that I have crossed the film off my “must see” list at last, however I must admit that I did not adore this film the way I thought it would. 

If you’ve read my previous film discussions on Katelovesliterature.com then you’ll know that usually I follow a certain formula. I discuss the plot, the setting, the themes, and the structure of a film. I’m changing things up and I’m going to discuss this film in a less formulaic way. 

Edgar Wright directed Last Night in Soho. Wright being the film’s director was a big reason as to why I was so eager to see this film. I’m a fan of Wright’s style of directing. I would say that a technique that makes his directing style quite notable is his use of rather jarring cuts. When reading about Wright and the way he directs films, another notable feature of his directing style that gets mentioned often is when editing, Wright is very creative when it comes to transitions. 

Both of these things are very clear in Last Night in Soho. 

Another film that I love that was directed by Wright is Hot Fuzz. You can read my discussion about this film if you click the link below.

I love films that follow through. What I mean by this, is that I love when a film sets up an idea and follows through with it. This is something that I discuss in more detail in my discussion about Die Hard, which you can also read by clicking on the link below. https://katelovesliterature.com/2021/12/06/die-hard-yes-its-a-chri

These are two films that I love because every single thing that takes place in these two films happens for a reason. Every single idea that has been set up at the beginning comes full circle by the end of the film. 

I think that Edgar Wright is quite a meticulous director. He pays attention to details. This is really noticeable when you watch Hot Fuzz. Every time I watch Hot Fuzz I catch another little detail. He lays the foundation and then he follows through. Nothing happens just because. Everything has a purpose. This is why I thought I would absolutely love Last Night in Soho. I expected the same level of acute attention to detail and unfortunately, I was a bit disappointed because I felt that the film started off so strong but became messy as it went on. I will elaborate on this point further along in this discussion. 

I have to be fair and more importantly, I have to be honest. I did really enjoy this film, in fact I would even say that I loved it. If you follow me on Instagram @katelovesliterature then you will have seen that my immediate initial reaction to this film was that I really enjoyed it. 

I shared on my Instagram stories that I would give it 10/10, that I loved the cast, that I loved the directing style. I said that I particularly loved the use of lighting in the film. I loved the music in the film, and all of these things are still true, however upon further reflection and taking more time to think about the film, there are things that I felt fell apart once you spend more than five minutes thinking about them. If I was to summarise my thoughts I would say “brilliant concept, messy execution.”

Let me explain. Before I talk about the things I didn’t love, let’s discuss the plot because I really did like the idea of this film. I thought it was a really creative and intriguing premise. 

If you have not already seen this film, please be aware that this discussion will contain spoilers. 

The film follows aspiring fashion designer Ellie as she moves from Cornwall to London to study at the London College of Fashion. Ellie, who is massively inspired by the music and fashion of the sixties, struggles to adapt to the bustling London life as it is so different to her sheltered, rural upbringing with her Nan. Ellie’s mother died when she was a young girl and Ellie can still see her in mirrors. This is the first sign that this movie will contain some supernatural elements. 

Ellie does not feel comfortable staying in the college dorms as she is struggling to make friends, so she decides to move to a women’s only bedsit that is owned by a woman named Mrs Collins. 

Ellie feels much more comfortable in this bedsit and while living there, she has a series of dreams that transport her back to the 60s. In her dreams, she observes a glamorous, confident, aspiring singer named Sandie. At first, Ellie is excited by Sandie’s life and she uses these dreams about Sandie to inspire her own fashion and her work in school. She dyes her hair blonde to match Sandie’s and in class, she starts designing the dress that Sandie is wearing in her dreams. This new confidence that Sandie has inspired impresses Ellie’s teachers and makes other classmates jealous. However all is not as glamorous as it appears because as each night passes, Ellie’s dreams about Sandie become more and more disturbing. Sandie is not living the high life of a singer in fancy bars, instead she is being mercilessly pimped out by her manager/boyfriend Jack. The man who had promised her stardom and success is pimping her out to his business associates. The dreams that once had Ellie rushing to go to sleep have quickly become inescapable nightmares. Ellie wants to avoid sleep, but the figures of her dreams start to haunt her daily life. Ellie gets more and more afraid as the movie goes on because she keeps seeing disturbing visions of Jack, and the other men who misused Sandie. 

The disturbing dreams take a turn for the worst when Ellie dreams about Jack murdering Sandie. 

Ellie becomes obsessed with the idea that she must avenge Sandie’s death in order to escape these dreams and be able to sleep. This idea consumes her and she begins looking up newspaper articles about the murder and she attempts to track down Jack to confront him. 

I want to pause here before I discuss the film’s twist because I want to talk about what I had hoped this plot would be. Based on the trailer, I thought that this film would be about Ellie trying to solve Sandie’s murder. I was fascinated by the idea of a young girl being plagued with dreams about a cold case and naturally, the only way to get the dreams to stop is to get justice for Sandie and solve her murder because the impression that the beginning of this film gives is that Jack got away with it. This idea is fuelled by the ominous appearings of an old man. Ellie gets a job in a pub, and an old man who we don’t know the name of frequents this pub. This unnamed man has a few odd conversations with Ellie, particularly after she dyes her hair blonde. The film very much gives audiences the impression that this old man is Jack. He seems to recognise Ellie, but only because her newly blonde hair reminds him of Sandie. He’s a strange character. 

He is a red herring and I will elaborate more on this point as I go on but first I want to mention one other direction that I thought this film would go in. 

I mentioned in a point above that I would summarise this discussion by saying “brilliant concept, messy execution”, and now I am going to give an example of this. I also felt that this movie didn’t follow through with certain ideas and this point is also an example of that. 

Ellie’s first dream about the 60s is a glamorous one. She is in a bar in Soho. London is bustling. 

One point I will make is that despite all of its flaws, this film is beautifully crafted. There are some absolutely stunning visuals and the vibe of London in the 60s was captured in such an electric way onscreen.

In her first dream, Ellie watches Sandie check her reflection in the mirror before entering the bar. She is determined to figure out a way to become a singer. She is going to be the next Cilla Black. Sandie is flirty, confident, and slick. She’s a force to be watched, she draws you in. She is directed by the bartender to speak to Jack. She’s told he’s Cilla’s manager. Sandie introduces herself to Jack and he is clearly quite taken with her. The couple dance together and this is a brilliant scene. 

I have to give credit to Anya Taylor-Joy and Matt Smith. The pair are fabulous as Jack and Sandie. They are slick, they are sexy, they have brilliant chemistry and they capture that electric, swinging vibe of the sixties perfectly. The dance scene is brilliant because it flawlessly cuts between Sandie and Ellie dancing with Jack and I must also praise Thomasin McKenzie as Ellie too because all three actors were fantastic in this scene. There was a lot of brilliant and practical mirror work done in this scene. There were shots where Sandie would look in the mirror and Ellie would be looking back at her instead of her own reflection. This very much gives the impression that Ellie is living the night through Sandie’s perspective. The dance is particularly slick because Jack will spin Sandie out and it will be Ellie who spins back in or he’ll dip Ellie but Sandie will come back up. I believe this scene was done practically as the transitions are so smooth. It very well could have been filmed with both women doing the dance individually and then the scenes were edited together, but it is done so smoothly at times that I suspect it was done practically. This would involve a lot of very precise choreography, but this precision is something that I would associate with Wright. The dvd I bought does have a behind-the-scenes documentary that I plan on watching so I do hope they include how they shot this scene. 

I’m not just talking about this back and forth between Sandie and Ellie for no reason, I brought up this point because it is one of the first instances where I feel the movie sets up something that could have been a really cool concept but then does not follow through. 

Sandie and Jack end up in a lift. The pair kiss and Jack gives Sandie a hickey on her neck. 

When Ellie wakes up in the morning, she has a hickey on her neck in the exact spot that Jack left it on Sandie in her dream so this presents the idea that Ellie physically experiences what happens to Sandie in her dreams. 

I thought this was really interesting and I was disappointed when this did not come up again. 

This moment also led me to think about what I thought may happen. An idea that I would have been really intrigued by, is the idea that whatever happens to Sandie in the dreams, physically impacts Ellie. So Sandie gets a hickey, Ellie wakes up with a hickey. If Sandie got a bruise, Ellie should have woken up with the same bruise just like she did with the hickey. I wondered if this plot would become about how  Ellie would have to somehow stop Sandie from being murdered, because if what happens to Sandie physically impacts Ellie, then surely Sandie being murdered would put Ellie in danger. This did not happen. That was not the plot. 

Ellie also did not have to figure out who murdered Sandie. This was not the plot. 

I am going to talk about the twist, and then I am going to explain why I did not like the twist. 

Jack did not kill Sandie. Jack threatened Sandie with a knife and then she fought back and killed him. Sandie went on to kill the men who came back to her room with the intent of using her for sex. She killed several “Johns” and hid their bodies in the floorboards and walls of her bedsit. 

It turns out that Mrs Collins is Sandie. She has managed to keep her secrets for all of these years and now that Ellie has discovered the truth, she panics. In order to keep her secret safe, because she refuses to go to prison, she intends to drug Ellie. All of Sandie’s plans go awry when Ellie’s only friend John knocks on the door to check on her. Mrs Collins stabs him. In Ellie’s room, the room that Sandie committed all the murders in, Ellie is seeing the figures of all the men who Sandie killed. They are crying out to Ellie, begging for help, and begging her to kill Sandie but she won’t. Ellie refuses to kill Sandie and she stops the woman from killing herself with a knife. Ellie is struggling after being drugged, the spirits are shouting, John is bleeding at the bottom of the stairs, and the entire building is burning as a fire has broken out. Mrs Collins/Sandie tells Ellie to get out and escape with John while she stays sitting on the bed as the room becomes engulfed in flames. 

Thankfully John recovers – I was so happy about this as he was a really good friend to Ellie throughout the entire film. He is a sweet character and he did not deserve to die. Ellie also recovers and goes back to fashion college. The ending feels far too neat, but I’ll talk about that shortly. 

I want to talk about the twist. I did not like it. There are a few reasons as to why I did not like it. 

The first being that we watched Jack kill Sandie. In one of Ellie’s dreams, he kills her. 

This is where the plot becomes messy. The movie never clarifies whether or not Ellie is having dreams or visions. The things she sees when she goes to sleep are treated as facts. 

Ellie sees Jack and Sandie in the flirting stage of the relationship. She watches as Sandie wows him with her voice and her dancing. She is excited when Sandie supposedly gets her first gig, her big break, and then she is horrified to discover that she is not a star at all. Sandie is an overworked backup dancer who is doing a lot more than dancing at night. Ellie wakes up screaming when she dreams about the various men who abuse Sandie in the bedroom. They menacingly unbuckle their belts and laugh at her fear as they stalk towards her. This leads me to this question, if everything up until Sandie’s murder was treated as fact, why did this change when Sandie was allegedly murdered? 

Why and how did Ellie see Sandie being murdered if this didn’t actually happen? 

Everything else up until this point was portrayed as the accurate unfolding of events in order. 

Sandie’s world falling apart and becoming filled with fear as her hopes and dreams are dashed as she is pimped out is a realistic storyline. It is a tragic one. The beginning of the film makes you sympathise with Sandie. She was a wide eyed girl with a beautiful voice and she’s been lured into the world of prostituion and there is no way out because Jack has her under his control. This is believable. So if everything else in Ellie’s dreams was simply an unfolding of events, how did Ellie see a murder that did not actually happen? 

Another problem that I have with this is that Ellie is so haunted by Sandie’s murder that she starts to see Sandie in her day to day life. She is haunted by the image of Sandie walking around Soho in her gorgeous pink dress, but the beautiful image is ruined when you glance up and see her slit throat. 

Here’s what I think happened. I think that the image of a beautiful Sandie walking around Soho with a slit throat is a very powerful, very disturbing image. It is haunting. It is jarring, and as I mentioned earlier, I think Wright notably uses jarring shots. I can understand why any director would want such a shot in their film, however I feel like wanting this imagery may have overshadowed some plot details. 

I would also put forward the idea that the film suggests that Ellie sees things from Sandie’s perspective. She is inspired by Sandie, and then she is concerned about Sandie’s safety, so perhaps when Ellie dreams about Jack threatening Sandie with a knife, she assumes that Jack kills her. She may assume this because up until this point, Jack has had all the control in their relationship, and if he is pimping her out and emotionally abusing her, it makes sense that Ellie would assume that him taking a knife to her resulted in her death. I put forward that idea, but the problem with this is that I’m the one putting forward the idea. That is my interpretation as to why Ellie saw Sandie being murdered. The film does not explain why. The film never makes Ellie out to be an unreliable narrator. The film never alludes to the fact that Ellie’s dreams may be biassed or only reflective of one point of view. As I said, the film treats Ellie’s dreams as a window into the past, and through these dreams, we see Sandie’s life play out so that is why it does not make sense that Ellie saw Sandie being murdered if that did not actually happen. To go against my own point, I would ask if we were to say that Ellie is seeing things through Sandie’s eyes then wouldn’t that mean we would have seen what actually happened? If we are seeing things through Sandie’s eyes, then wouldn’t we have seen her murder Jack? 

I wish we hadn’t seen Jack murder Sandie. I wish we had seen a knife fight. I wish we had seen a struggle. I wish that instead of seeing visions of Sandie with her throat slit, that we had seen visions of her covered in blood. This would have been more vague. We don’t see Jack again after the murder dream. We only see the older man, the one the movie lets us assume is Jack. 

If we had seen Sandie covered in blood, it would have been easier to wrongly assume that Jack killed her and got away with it. This would make sense. Ellie has been seeing Sandie’s struggles all this time. She has formed a connection with Sandie. Ellie feels sorry for her. If Ellie had dreamt about a knife struggle but woke up before anyone was killed, and then saw images of a  bloody Sandie walking around Soho, it would be fair for naive and out of her depth in London Ellie to assume that Jack is the one who killed Sandie. The fact that this is not left elusive, the fact that we see Jack slitting her throat makes this twist really redactive. It was not really a twist in my opinion. We saw him kill her and then a while later, the movie tells us “actually he didn’t kill her, she killed him. Surprise!”

It feels messy. 

I also don’t like this twist because I don’t like what the end of this film does to Sandie.

I will say that talking about a fictional murder is extremly different to talking about a real life murder. Fictonal murders are different because depending on the genre of film, murder can very easily become an act that is easier to understand. 

Let’s look at Sandie’s character. 

She is a young girl who lives alone. There is no mention of her family. She wants to be a singer. She’s talented. She can sing, she can dance, she is charming. She is told to speak to Jack. She does. He is the ultimate teddy boy. He is charming, he’s a smooth talker. He promises her the world and he seems to be opening doors for her. He tells her he loves her, and in the beginning at least, he defends her from sleazy grips and prying eyes. She feels safe with him. “I’m with Jack,” she says. The job turns out to be a backup dancing gig at a gentlemen’s club. The girls are expected to perform onstage and offstage, the dressing rooms are filled with girls who are forced to perform sexual acts and it is clear that some of the girls are not well at all, so clearly noone really cares too much about their wellbeing. Sandie does not have a way out. The men know where she lives, Jack knows where she lives and there is no way he is letting her out. He feels a sense of ownership over her. He is not going to let her just walk away. He is controlling and he is violent, he proves this by pulling out a knife. He just did not expect her to fight back and turn the tables on him. 

The idea of an abused girl fighting back and killing her pimp in self defence is one that I can’t say I disagree with. I can’t say that I blame Sandie for killing Jack. Ellie even tells Sandie that she doesn’t blame her, that she understands why she did what she did. The film also presents all of the other men as terrifying figures throughout the film. The images of them following Ellie down the streets and to school are really unsettling. The scenes where shadowy hands are reaching out to grab her feel really uncomfortable to watch, especially as a young woman, so when the film pulls the switch and suddenly has all of these dead “Johns” crying out to Ellie for help, it feels off. 

Sandie is then presented as a serial killer because she killed the many men who came back to her room and wanted to pay her for sex. The film presents this idea that she is getting revenge on all of those “Johns” who use and abuse her by killing them. This is another point that caused me to have conflicting opinions and I actually struggled to gather my thoughts articulately because killing that many people is wrong and being able to kill that many people has to have a profound impact on a person. In the fight with Jack, it was self defence, she did not go out that day knowing she would kill Jack that night. There does come a point though, where it is intentional. She knows that when she takes these other men back to her room that she is going to kill them one by one. She feels they deserve it. 

Do they deserve it? That is an interesting question. The film does not make these men sympathetic whatsoever. They are portrayed as sleazy, predatory, arrogant figures who love to watch the girls dance and then get a private show later. The men who interact with Sandie act like they’re entitled to do whatever they like with her and to her. The audition scene is particularly seedy in hindsight. At first it seems as though Jack and the owner of the bar are in awe of her voice. The two men share a look. Upon reflection, it becomes clear that the owner was not impressed by her singing, there was never any intention of making Sandie a star, the only intention was to turn her into a prostitute and they succeeded. It’s hard not to still sympathise with Sandie. She says herself that she died in that room a hundred times, and in a way she did. The innocent Sandie died in that room. The Sandie who didn’t know violence died in that room. The Sandie who just wanted to be a singer died in that room. The old man who we think is Jack, who I will talk about properly in my next point, has a line about how he used to know all of the pretty girls. He talks to Ellie about the pretty girls, the pretty blonde girls. He says he doesn’t remember them all because “they all look the same on the slab.” It is a horrible line. It is a line that stood out. It is cold, it is callous. I think it is hard to think of Sandie as a cold killer when the film tells us that these men simply used young girls for their pleasure. They didn’t care about them as people. They didn’t care about their safety or their wellbeing. They would not care if they found out that one of those girls ended up dead. 

Historically we know that if a female prostitute wound up dead, the crime was not taken all that seriously because the victim was viewed as someone who deserved it or a prostitute’s life wasn’t considered that important anyways. I have talked about this in my discussion of Jekyll & Hyde the musical as it is a very prominent plot point. You can read this discussion by clicking the link below https://katelovesliterature.com/2021/10/22/jekyll-hyde-the-musical/

The film Lost Girls is based on a tragic true story and this film demonstrates how some people, even those investigating the crime, often lack any emphty for the victims because of the fact that they were prostitutes. You can read my review of this film by clicking the link below. 

I am aware that I am linking several of my other reviews in this discussion. I am doing so because the points I am making relate to points I have made in more detail when discussing other pieces that contain similar themes and if you’re interested in exploring these points further and reading about how these points were portrayed in other stories, then you can go ahead and read some of my other discussions if you haven’t already. 

If Sandie had have been murdered, it is fair to assume that her death wouldn’t have been taken all that seriously based on the fact that she was a prostitute in the 60s. Lost Girls is not a period piece and the film demonstrates how even in this day and age, certain victims will be dismissed because of the lives they lead so it is fair to assume that had Sandie died, some would have had the attitude that she got what was coming to her. Last Night in Soho is a film that deomonstartes how easy it is for a young girl to end up working as a prostitute so is it fair to say that any prostitute deserves to be murdered? I don’t think so. I think that seeing every step of Sandie’s struggles made it really difficult to condemn her actions even though they did change from self defence to intentional. The reason for this is that the film presents the men as very predatory figures who abuse young girls, so as an audience member, it is hard to sympathise when these men cry out for help. Sandie cried out for help. Sandie cried out in fear. They laughed at her. 

The film then goes a step too far with Sandie because while I can say that killing that many people is wrong but I can understand Sandie’s motive behind doing so, when Sadie stabs Ellie’s friend John there is no turning back. To an extent, I can understand why she drugged Ellie. She has lived her whole life with her secrets and she does not want to go to prison and now because of Ellie, she may be caught. So she panics. She drugs Ellie so that her secret won’t get out. It is an act of desperation. Was it wrong? Yes. Do I understand it? Yes. Why do I understand it? I understand it because it is in character. It aligns with everything she has done so far. Every ounce of understanding goes away when she stabs Ellie’s friend John. There was no need. There is no justification for it. Ellie swore she wouldn’t tell anyone the truth she has learned, and I believe that she wouldn’t have. She still felt sorry for Sandie. She understood why Sandie committed those murders. As a viewer, I believed that Ellie would have taken that secret to her grave, but Sandie couldn’t trust that so she drugged her. Stabbing John was unnecessary. He was completely innocent. He knocked on the door to make sure Ellie was okay. Sandie could have said she was sick. She did not need to stab him. Sandie even makes it a point to say she is not going to kill Ellie with a knife because she would not do that to her, she does not deserve it. The only reason Sandie is planning to kill Ellie is because she wants her secret to die with Ellie. She does not believe that Ellie deserves to die violently the way the “Johns” did. Sandie drugged Ellie’s tea and planned for her to fall asleep and die peacefully so this demonstrates that Sandie does not just ruthlessly brandish her knife, but then she stabs John. She uses her knife on someone completely innocent when she really didn’t have to and this action cannot be justified. 

Sandie is a very flawed character, and while murder is objectively wrong, there was at least a clear motive from Sandie’s point of view and while you can disagree with her actions, at least you can see why she did what she did, you can see why she wanted revenge. She’s complicated. She’s layered. Her actions and the reasons behind those actions invite audiences to think about morals and how complex the morally right thing can be. I think having her stab a completely innocent boy ruins that, because in my opinion, that is a point that can’t be overlooked. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this film in preparation of writing this review and every time I think about it, I think why did she have to do that to John? Everything else, I could see the motive behind it, but hurting John has no defence and I think that really hurts her character. 

I mentioned in a point above how I felt that the imagery of Sandie walking around Soho with a slit throat was a very powerful visual and I felt the want for this jarring visual overtook some plot points making sense. I think that this happened again when it came to Sandie’s final scene. 

I think that the idea of having Sandie die on that bed, in that room, as the room becomes engulfed in flames is a very poignant idea. The visuals were stunning. Scary, heartbreaking, but stunning. Again, despite all of the flaws, this film was beautifully crafted. I think the idea that Sandie metaphorically died in that room a hundred times and now she will literally die in that room is a very, very poignant idea. I think that having Sandie sit on that bed in that room as it became engulfed in flames was a visual that was really wanted, but a reason was needed for it, which is why the choice was made to turn Sandie into this serial killer who was desperate to keep her secret. In order to have this powerful scene on the bed, the film needed to provide a reason as to why Sandie would do that. So the film has Sandie decide to die on her own terms. She refuses to be caught by the police. Ellie stops her from using the knife on herself, but she still won’t allow herself to be caught so she tells Ellie to run and she dies on her own terms, on her own bed. 

I will also take a moment to say that all of the thoughts that I have expressed in this review are entirely my own. People can feel free to disagree. People can love this film, and feel that the twist was brilliant. People can enjoy the fact that it became somewhat of a slasher film. 

I am not saying that what I think is right. Film is subjective and films are always open to interpretation. Personally, I was so excited to watch this film, but based on the trailers I thought it would be completely different.  I loved the idea and loved many things within the film such as the music, the costumes, the use of lighting, I did feel that while this film is beautifully crafted, the plot gets messy. Too many things don’t add up in my opinion. Too many things were brilliant concepts but they were let down by the execution. I also think that certain plot points were overlooked and allowed to be messy because certain visuals were wanted. I love powerful imagery. I am in favour of getting really interesting, dynamic, and startling shots, but they need to make sense. 

I want to talk about the old man before I talk about the film’s ending. The old man is a red herring. There are many times in the film where we see Jack and then in the present day, we see the old man. So the film allows audiences to assume that he is Jack. There were a few moments where I was unsure, because the film doesn’t clarify who this man actually is until the third act. When it was revealed that the old man who had spoken to Ellie in such an ominous way about the past was actually a retired undercover detective who had once tried to help Sandie, again I just couldn’t help but feel that this was a messy twist. 

The old man’s real name is Lindsey and when Ellie thinks back through her dreams, she does recall one night when a man tried to help Sandie. It turns out that this man was Lindsey. 

Ellie confronts Lindsey before she learns his true identity. She thinks he is Jack. She attempts to get him to confess to killing Sandie. This results in an argument and Lindsey leaves the pub angry, only to be killed when he is hit by a car. It is only when he is dead that Ellie is told who this man actually is, and she is horrified to learn that she wasn’t questioning Jack after all. 

This moment disappoints me because it just feels a bit pointless. Lindsey’s death feels really unnecessary, as does John’s stabbing. I think the problem is that the film doesn’t allow audiences to feel connected to Lindsey as a character. The film allows us to assume he is Jack for a very long time, and Lindsey isn’t exactly the nicest character. He’s guarded. He seems very suspicious of Ellie. He is not exactly kind. At one point he even asks Ellie if he scares her, and he seems to smirk at the idea that he does, taking pleasure in her discomfort instead of easing her mind. 

In my opinion, we don’t see him enough in Ellie’s dreams of the past. There is a brilliant yet devastating montage of Sandie being forced to dance by Jack. She dances to get the attention of men. These men buy her a drink, ask her for her name, they tell her she has a lovely name, and then they proceed to use her for their pleasure. It happens over, and over, and over again. The point being that these “Johns” are all the same. The same club, the same approach, the same drink, the same question, the same answer, and then the same result at the end of the night. Sandie gets more and more delirious as she answers the same questions over, and over because she knows exactly how her night is going to play out. It plays out the same way every time. 

Lindsey is in this montage. He’s at the table with her, arguing with her about how she is better than this, but Sandie knows she is being watched intently by Jack so she feels too trapped to accept his help. When the film reveals that Lindsey was actually a detective, there’s this idea presented that he was a good guy all along and it is a shame that he died. It is a shame that he died, he didn’t need to, but the devastation of everyone else in the pub feels misplaced because they don’t connect with him throughout the film. He is never once presented as a great man who everyone loves and respects, he is always presented as a lone figure, who is silently observing Ellie and the way he stares at her sometimes is borderline uncomfortable. I think the film made him behave this way so that audiences would not trust him, so that we would believe he is Jack, so that the reveal that he is not Jack would feel like a shocking twist, but doing that hurts this twist because he was not a particularly nice old man, and there were not enough scenes with him from the past. 

I would argue that if we had seen him more in the past, if we had seen him actively trying to help Sandie, actively trying to get her away from Jack, if we had been given the opportunity to get to know his character then this twist and his death would have felt much more poignant. If he had been a reserved old man who refused to talk about the past because it was too upsetting instead of an ominous figure, then this moment would have had more impact. It would have been a different character if he had done all he could to help Sandie but couldn’t, and didn’t want to talk about the past because that time and those memories bring him pain, and then for him to tragically get hit by a car after all of that, that would have hit harder. I could also argue that this would be somewhat melodramatic to have this person who tried his very best fail, be haunted by that failure, and then tragically die. I’m not saying that this would have been the perfect solution. The point I’m trying to make is that I feel that in order for that twist and his death to work, we needed to feel more connected to Lindsey as a character. I feel we didn’t know Lindsey at all, so that entire scene just felt sloppy. 

I think the main reason I didn’t love Last Night in Soho as much as I expected to is because within this plot, I feel that there were some really brilliant concepts, but as I talk about moments that I found to be quite messy, and when I try to think about how I would have liked those moments to make more sense, I find that I’m almost creating a different film. 

I’m not a screenwriter, and I’m not a director, but I just see so many threads that if you pull on them enough, the plot slowly unravels. This is a shame because the premise is really creative and intriguing, but I think the decision to make it an almost slasher film was a mistake. 

I like the idea of Ellie dreaming about a cold case and in order to escape the nightmares, she attempts to prove that Sandie was murdered. Lindsey could have been a reserved, retired, jaded detective who finally agrees to work with her because he couldn’t prove Sandie was murdered at the time. This would have been a different film. 

If the film wanted to keep the twist that Sandie killed Jack, okay then maybe Lindsey found out and kept her secret all these years because he felt that Jack was a cruel man and Sandie fought back in self defence. Ellie poking around and questioning the past would threaten Lindsey and Sandie in modern day because the crime they covered up would be at risk of being revealed and they would get caught. This would have been a different film. 

I really loved the idea that Ellie is physically impacted by what happened to Sandie in her dreams. So I would have loved for this to have continued rather than just stopping after the hickey. It was a really cool idea that happened once and not ever again. Why? Why did it only happen once? How did she get the hickey but no other physical proof of what happened in her dreams? If Ellie is physically impacted then Sandie being murdered puts her in physical danger and she would have to somehow figure out how to save Sandie and save herself and that is where the horror comes in. With every dream, she takes one step closer to being murdered. Again, this would have been a different film.

There were so many different and interesting concepts within this film. I think the original premise lends itself to going in many different directions, all of which would have been creative, compelling, and rather poignant. The film could have kept its horror elements even if they had gone in a different direction and I think it is disappointing that the direction that was chosen led to messy storylines and messy executions of really cool ideas. 

The film’s ending feels far too neatly wrapped up. Ellie returns to fashion college and thrives. Her former bullies tell her she is so brave after all she has been through. There were three bullies in this film, the classic Mean Girls set up where we meet the head bully and her two minions. Jocasta is the leader of the pack. She dislikes Ellie immediately. She makes fun of Ellie for making her own clothes, she thinks Ellie is boring and weird, she’s also jealous when Ellie gets positive feedback from a teacher. Throughout the course of the film, Ellie is getting more and more paranoid in her real life because she keeps seeing disturbing figures from her dreams and she fears that the men and Jack are after her. There is a very disturbing scene in the library where Ellie is terrified that she is being chased by attackers so she grabs a pair of scissors to defend herself. Her only friend John grabs a hold of her and stops her right in time because when Ellie comes to, she realises that that figure she was about to stab is actually Jocasta. The pair of scissors is dangerously close to Jocasta’s face and she is rightfully angry over what has happened. Ellie can’t explain her actions as she feels no one will believe her. She is afraid people will think she is mad. This incident is never mentioned again. Ellie runs from the library. John follows as he is desperately trying to figure out what is wrong and what has happened. 

At the end of the film when Ellie is back in college, Jocasta is never mentioned again. The two girls who used to laugh at Ellie with Jocasta tell her that she is so brave. They are suddenly being kind to her. Jocasta is alone in the background of the shot. She is not smiling, but she does not look angry, she is just sort of there and it just feels off. She was nearly stabbed in the face with a pair of scissors but there was absolutely no mention of how this issue got resolved. After everything Ellie just goes back to college and John and her Nan watch happily from the audience as she does very well at an end of year fashion show. It is a happy ending and I like happy endings, but this felt bizarrely wrapped up in a bow and it didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the film. 

Overall I am delighted that I got to watch Last Night in Soho at last. I would watch the film again, and despite being let down by the plot twists and feeling that the plot became messy, I would recommend it to anyone who has not seen it because the cast is brilliant and there are some really fantastic moments in the film that I did enjoy. The music was fantastic. The way the film captured the setting of the 60s was wonderful. The way the energy shifts from flirty and glamorous to seedy and terrifying is done brilliantly. There are moments in the film that are so unsettling, and this feeling is achieved from the creative use of lighting and sound. I also really love the practical shots and the mirror acting. It is a very creative shot that you don’t see all that often. If you’re a fashion or makeup buff, then I think you’ll love the costumes. The 60s looks, particularly Sandie’s, are gorgeous. I’ve said it a few times in this discussion but it is worth repeating because it is true, the film is visually stunning. It is a well made film that just has a messy plot. I would love for a few things to have been different, so that the overall plot could have made more sense, but even with all of the things that I wish were different, I can’t deny that I enjoyed this film. I plan to watch the behind-the-scenes documentary as I believe it will be fascinating and I look forward to seeing how certain things were done. 

Have you seen Last Night in Soho? What are your thoughts? Love it? Hate it? Agree with me? Disagree with me? I’d love to know. 

Do you have a movie that you think is really well made despite being full of things that just don’t make sense when you think about it? What movie is it? 

Kate xo.

Blade Runner Live.

Hello everyone. I have been one lucky lady lately as I have been doing so much and I’ve been getting the opportunity to enjoy the arts more and more. 

If you follow me on Instagram (@katelovesliterature), then you know that I am just back from London. I had an amazing trip. I did so much. I did lots of sightseeing and I ate lovely food and drank fabulous drinks and I went to see Matilda the musical and I had the best time exploring Fleet Street. I have already shared a few pictures on Instagram, but I will be sharing more so keep an eye out for that, and I will be writing a much more in depth discussion about my trip as it was filled with things that made my literature loving heart very happy. 

There will be a #theatretrip post coming up soon about the brilliant Matilda the musical. 

For now, I am back in Dublin and I am very busy. I do have some exciting news that I am just waiting on permission to share so stay tuned. 

I was at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on Sunday evening to see Blade Runner Live. 

It was an amazing evening. I absolutely love hearing an orchestra play live, I don’t think there is anything quite like it. I also think it is brilliant to see the musicians on stage as this doesn’t always happen in musicals, the musicians are very often in the orchestra pit so while we hear the beautiful music, we don’t always get to see the talented people who are playing. 

Blade Runner is a brilliant movie. We saw the director’s cut version starring Harrison Ford. 

The movie is based on Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

I studied this text in my first year of my BA which feels like such a long time ago now, even though it really isn’t, but I was not expecting to like this text as much as I did and I really loved the movie. 

If you are not aware of the plot, the central idea is that there are humans and replicants and Rick Deckard is tasked with hunting and killing the “non-human” replicants. The replicants are designed to look like humans, however they are deemed to not feel the way that humans feel, however as one watches the movie, this idea can be debated. 

I think the key theme of this movie revolves around the idea of questioning what makes one human? What makes me the person that I am? Am I made up of experiences and memories? 

I also think that the story highlights the importance of having empathy in society. 

I don’t wish to give away any spoilers, but there are moments in this movie where the supposedly unfeeling replicants show more empathy than the human characters. There is one specific scene that I think of when I say this, if you’ve seen the movie then you likely know which scene I am alluding to, and if you have not seen the movie then I suggest watching it, and it should become clear which moment I am talking about. 

The movie has a beautiful score and it was amazing to hear it played live by the orchestra. 

I have a few more exciting theatre trips coming up and I will be writing about all of them. 

Have you seen Blade Runner? 

Kate xo.

Spielberg’s Take on West Side Story

Hello everyone. Welcome back to #moviemonday. A few weeks ago I talked about the 1960 adaptation of West Side Story and I said that eventually I would talk about the Spielberg adaptation of the movie. 

The Spielberg adaptation of West Side Story is available to watch on Disney plus (unfortunately I didn’t make it to the cinema to see this movie even though I really wanted to), so I finally got to sit down and enjoy this movie. Usually I’m really bad at waiting to see the movie. I’ll read about a movie or I’ll watch clips online because spoilers have never bothered me, but this time I’ve been really good. I didn’t watch anything except the trailer so today I am giving my honest thoughts after watching the Speilberg take on the classic West Side Story for the first time. 

Let’s dive in. 

As I am writing this discussion, I don’t have a favourite version, but perhaps by the time I finish my discussion, my thoughts will be different. 

This discussion will be slightly different from my usual Movie Monday discussions as instead of using my usual structure of plot, characters, themes and structure, I’m going to talk about Spielberg’s style because I’ve already talked about the characters and themes of this movie in my discussion of the 1960 adaptation of West Side Story and the movie’s characters and the themes have obviously stayed the same, although I will say that I definitely prefer the Maria and Tony in the 1960 adaptation. 

I think that there are two things that stand out when one is watching a movie directed by Speilberg. The first being the fact that I think his directing style is very physical as actors will move through a scene so it is clear that Spielberg spends time doing a lot of physical blocking, and the second being that he often uses many shots in one by changing compositions and having varying shot sizes. This makes for a more dynamic scene because it keeps viewers engaged and it holds our attention and it keeps things from becoming dull. Having actors move through a scene is a very engaging technique as well because when an actor is using their entire body in a scene, when they are physically taking up space and using it well, it can be very impactful. There is a fluidity to Speilberg movies that make them visually really satisfying to watch and his take on West Side Story is no different. 

I think that the social mixer at the gym is a great example of his use of many shots. There are so many shots in this scene, you can’t help but be an engaged viewer. It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s bright, there is tension in the room between the Jets and the Sharks, everyone is dancing, trying to show off, the choreography is slick, and there are so many shots that it feels as though you’re in the hall too as opposed to just watching. It is a brilliant scene that is full of life and then things slow down when Tony and Maria meet for the first time. They dance behind the bleachers, their choreography is not explosive or slick, it’s slower, it’s more intimate, it’s almost wistful because the two are stunned almost by each other, it’s actually a very theatrical moment. 

The two standouts for me were Ariana DeBose as Anita and Mike Faist as Riff. 

Anita has always been my favourite character in the movie and I think she always will be. 

I really enjoyed Ariana DeBose’s take on America. She was beautiful, she was passionate, she was electric, the costuming was beautiful. She played the part with such energy and she was flirty and confident yet there were moments when Anita’s anger was just perfectly portrayed. 

Riff was brilliant. Riff is one of those characters who has to be played right, because he is awful. He is ignorant, he is racist, he is also very misunderstood, this life and this attitude is all he knows, the Jets are all he has, and in his mind, he is doing the right thing, he is defending the Jets and defending their territory and I think there should always been an underlying sadness when it comes to Riff. He could have been so much more, he could have straightened out if he wanted to, he could have gotten out, but he chose not to, he chose violence, he chose ignorance, he chose hate, and yet when a gun is held to his head and he says “Shoot. You might as well.” (Paraphrased.), this moment should be moving. This moment tells audiences everything you need to know about how Riff truly feels about himself and Mike Faist delivered this line so well. I believed him as Riff. I hated his ignorance, I was angry about his racism, I was frustrated by his choices, as I should be, that is the point. I don’t even think I mentioned Riff in my last discussion and I should have because he’s such a complex character and this time, he is the character who caught my attention the most. 

The choreography was stunning. I loved it. Something that I really love about both the 1960 adaptation and this one is the fact that the stage musical is not entirely lost. The big, elaborate, beautifully dynamic dance numbers are larger than life the way they would be on a stage and I just love that. My favourite performances were America and Cool. 

America is the most colourful, alive part of the movie. It’s fast, it’s bright, it’s joyful, it’s wishful, and I think this is a number where dancers get to shine. It was brilliant to watch as it should be. 

Cool is slick. Cool is precise. Cool is an elaborate number on a smaller scale. It’s meticulously choreographed. The movements are so smooth and every step with the gun is so intentional. The beats are so important. I can imagine that rehearsing this took a lot of time because the timing of Cool is so crucial. It’s about the back and forth, who has the gun? Who is holding it? Where is it going next? It’s tense because when we watch we don’t want it to go off, yet the number is slick, and tight, and so smooth and pardon the pun, but it’s so cool. Riff comes off like he’s cooler than anyone ever, and it is brilliant. 

Overall I think the 1960 adaptation will always be my favourite, just because it was the version I saw first when I was young and I loved it so much, and although I felt Spielberg’s directing was great and the lighting and choreography was beautiful, I just didn’t feel that same magic I feel whenever I watch the 1960 version. Maybe that’s my own nostalgia, but sometimes things just can’t be topped, they can be rivalled, they can be equalled, but they can’t always be topped. 

This has been Movie Monday. I hope you enjoyed it. 

I know I’ve been absent for a while but I am excited to be publishing discussions again. 

I hope you all have a great week and I will be back with another #theorythursday discussion this week. Stay tuned. 

Kate xo. 

Emma (2020).

Hello everyone. Happy Monday. Happy Valentine’s Day. I know that some people don’t care about Valentine’s Day and that’s absolutely fine. I’m kind of indifferent about the day. I think it’s sweet if you choose to celebrate it with someone special or with friends, but I also don’t feel the need to go out of my way to mark the day, so to those of you who do love Valentine’s Day, I hope you have had a good one and that you enjoyed however you chose to celebrate. 

With all of that being said, let’s dive into this week’s #moviemonday discussion. 

Today I am talking about the 2020 adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. The movie was released in February of 2020 and it was directed by Autumn de Wilde. 

Plot. 

The movie is based on Austen’s novel, which is a story about romantic misunderstandings all fuelled and orchestrated by the overconfident Emma. Emma is wealthy, beautiful, determined, headstrong, and overconfident in abilities of matchmaking. Throughout the novel, and the movie, Emma meddles in the lives of those around her, not realising the damage she is doing until it’s already done. 

The movie’s entire plot begins when Emma’s governess Miss Taylor gets married, leaving Emma to find a new companion. Emma finds a new companion in Harriet Smith, and when Emma can’t help herself from meddling in Harriet’s proposal, this is the beginning of a series of romantic misunderstandings between different couples, all because of Emma’s overconfident meddling. 

In the midst of all the confusion, Emma herself finds love. 

Characters. 

Emma Woodhouse is of course the movie’s main protagonist, although people may find her unlikable. Jane Austen famously said that when she was writing Emma, she was creating a heroine that may not be liked by anyone but herself. Emma’s likability is up to interpretation, and each viewer will respond to her differently. Emma frustrates me but I do not actively dislike her, and I appreciate the arc she has in the story. 

There is a large ensemble cast in this movie. We meet many characters. Harriet Smith, Emma’s new companion, the first of her meddling victims. We meet Mr. Knightly, I would argue he is the male protagonist. He is the one who gives Emma a reality check about her behaviour, and he eventually becomes her love interest. 

Jane Fairfax is the one character whom Emma is jealous of, although she really doesn’t have any reason to be jealous as she is better off in nearly every way. I love Jane’s character, especially in the novel. Jane was orphaned at a young age, and although she was cared for by caring family members, and although she is beautiful, elegant, and very well accomplished – a fact that bothers Emma, Jane is destined to become a governess which is an interesting station in life. I will touch on this more at another time, because the concept is also discussed in Jane Eyre. A governess was a strange sort of in-between station in life, as one was more educated than a regular servant, but they still were not equal with the pupils they were teaching. Emma is of higher social status than Jane. She has much more financial security, and more comfortable prospects. 

I think what makes Jane so interesting to me is that she is the complete opposite to Emma regarding how she behaves romantically. It is interesting that in the book she can come across a tad cold, or quiet at social events, but it is important to remember that we are seeing Jane through Emma’s eyes, and Emma is jealous of her. The fact that she is the only person Emma envies is very interesting to me, and unlike Emma, she keeps her love life, particularly her engagement to Frank Churchill, a secret.They had to keep their engagement a secret, because his wealthy aunt did not approve, but when she dies, they are free to share their love and marry at last. 

I’ve focused a lot on Jane here and that is because some have argued that she could be described as a secondary heroine and I would have to agree. 

Themes. 

There are various themes that are presented in Emma. Many of Austen’s novels discuss the idea of social class and class differences, and Emma is no different. The movie’s major theme is the idea of what marriage means for one’s social status as the plot centres on so many relationships. The story shines a light on how important marriage was for women in that time period as having a good match could make or break you. Miss Bates in my opinion, is the character who demonstrates just how important marriage was to one’s social status in that time period, because without a husband to care for her and her mother, they are facing poverty. 

I think that one could interpret Emma as a cautionary tale about arrogance. Emma is a headstrong character. Emma is extremely overconfident about her matchmaking abilities and she takes it upon herself to meddle in everyone else’s lives without thinking about anyone else’s feelings or the ramifications of her actions. Emma is wealthy and she is in a very privileged position in life, she has great prospects as it is very likely that she will marry well, even though despite her matchmaking interests, she does not really spend too much time thinking about her own love life. 

When Emma convinces Harriet to turn down a proposal, the action that kicks off the rest of the plot, Emma does not ever seem to realise that she has severely impacted Harriet’s life. Harriet is not of the same status, she does have the options that Emma does, and so Emma had no right to mess in her affairs. 

The idea of one’s imagination running wild is also a major theme of Emma. Emma gets ideas about the people in her life into her head and then she manipulates situations and people so that things play out the way she wants them too. She believes that Mr. Elton has feelings for Harriet for example and likewise, Emma does not speak highly of Jane because she is jealous of her, so all of these perceptions and misunderstandings largely stem from Emma’s ideas about these people in her head. She’s so wrapped up in her own thoughts about what would amuse her, she never stops to think about the practicalities. 

Seeing as it is Valentine’s Day, I suppose that one could interpret the piece as an example of true love conquering all, because despite all of these misunderstandings and despite all of Emma’s meddling, things tend to end up as they are supposed to, and everyone ends up belonging with the person that they have true feelings for. I think that one could suggest that this shows the impact of love. This piece explores the idea that your love for another person will always win in the end. This is an idea that I feel is very much of the romantic era of literature, as there is this idea presented that love offers clarity despite all odds. 

Structure. 

The 2020 adaptation of Emma is just over two hours long, and I think that this may feel a tad long, but then again, the idea of multiple misunderstandings in one plot is always going to feel somewhat tedious no matter how well the story is told as naturally all of the miscommunication gets frustrating. I think that you need this time frame though because there are so many characters and they all play an important role in the story, because in order for all the pieces to come together at the end, and for the clarity to form, first we must have the confusion that Emma causes in the most frustratingly charming way. The story is compelling and the cast did a brilliant job so I like the movie’s pacing and length even though it is a tad long. 

Final Thoughts. 

I enjoyed this adaptation. I enjoy Emma in its many forms. I would highly recommend watching this movie. It’s fun. It’s great if you enjoy period pieces. The costumes were stunning, and the story is compelling even though at times it is frustrating – but that is all part of Emma’s charm.

This has been Movie Monday. Happy Valentine’s Day. 

Kate xo.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (1961).

Hello everyone. Welcome to another #moviemonday. Today I am discussing the movie adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s starring the lovely Audrey Hepburn. I have discussed Truman Capote’s famous novella and if you’re interested in checking that out then you will find it in my Book Of The Month category. 

I stated in my book discussion that the book and the movie are extremely different and seeing as we are approaching Valentine’s Day, I thought that this movie would be a good choice as it is quite charming and includes an iconic kissing in the rain scene, a trope that one naturally associates with romantic/romantic comedy movies. 

So let’s dive into Movie Monday. 

This movie was released in 1961 and it was directed by Blake Edwards. 

Plot. 

The plot is the same as it is in the book although there are sections that are glossed over and some of the jarringly offensive language was thankfully left out. Mistakes were still made, if you’re familiar with the movie then you’ll know exactly which casting choice I am referring to. It’s safe to say that the same thing would hopefully not happen if this movie was made in 2022, but in the 60s, standards were different and certain things that thankfully aren’t acceptable today were back then. 

The plot follows Paul, an aspiring writer who moves into a New York brownstone and meets the mysterious and charming Holly Golightly, who calls him “Fred”. Holly’s chaotic yet intriguing lifestyle inspires “Fred” and the more he gets to know her (or not know her), the more intrigued and charmed he becomes and overtime he falls for her although Holly is not really the romantic type. Just like in the book, she’s preoccupied with trying to get herself a millionaire while also paying visits to her “uncle Sally” in Sing Sing. 

The two lost people find a sense of belonging in one another, even though Holly never wants to belong to anyone. Just like in the novel, she’s restless, she’s afraid to commit, she builds walls around her heart so that she can’t get hurt, and she just wants to find that place that makes her feel like Tiffany’s because “nothing so very bad can happen at a place like Tiffany’s.”

I recommend reading the novella before watching the movie because even though the movie is not the exact same and even though it glosses over some of the grittier aspects of Capote’s piece, I believe that you need to read the book in order to understand the movie. It’s hard to explain the plot because there really isn’t one. The novella is about “Fred” telling us about his experiences with Holly. In the novella we don’t even learn his real name. Holly is at one point described as being like a scarf that floats in the wind and that is such an apt description of her character. She’s confusing, she’s at times infuriating, she’s impossible to figure out and yet she’s charming, she’s intriguing, she’s vulnerable, she’s layered. Holly Golightly is an iconic character for a reason and I think that Hepburn did a wonderful job playing her. 

Characters.

The movie’s main protagonists are Holly and “Fred”. As I’ve stated above, Holly is a complex character who has many layers. She’s impossible to define which is ideal because Holly did not ever want to be defined. She didn’t want to be caged or put in a box. Holly is a very vulnerable character who has had a tough past, but she has built a life for herself, she has built a mysterious image that keeps her safe. “She’s a phoney, but she’s a real phoney.” 

“Fred” is much more of the classic romantic lead that one would expect to see in a 1960s movie. He’s handsome, he’s charismatic, he’s kind and understanding, but he’s not perfect, he’s got his own struggles. He’s an ambitious writer, struggling to gain his own independence. He’s trying to get published and make a career out of his dream, all while falling for this girl who he can’t quite figure out. 

There isn’t really an antagonist in this movie. There’s lots of different characters. We meet “Fred’s” decorator, a wealthy woman whom he sees for money, we meet Doc, Holly’s estranged husband whom she married when she was very young. We meet José, a Brazilian politician whom Holly plans to marry at one point, we meet Holly’s rather obnoxious friend Mag Wildwood, and then there’s Joe Bell, he runs the local bar. 

All of the other characters exist in the realm of Holly. “Fred” meets these people because of his friendship with Holly, it’s unlikely that he would have met any of these people by himself, aside from Joe Bell that is. 

Themes. 

I spoke about the themes of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in my book discussion and although the movie is different, and arguably more romantic, I feel the core themes are the same. This is a movie about belonging. The major theme of this movie is this idea of finding somewhere that makes you feel like you’re at ease. A place that makes you feel safe and content. Holly is restlessly trying to find that place and “Fred” believes they could be happy together if Holly would stop running from him and from the idea of commitment. Holly does not want to be caged, but “Fred” doesn’t want to cage her, he simply loves her. Holly comes to see that she loves him too, and just because she wants to settle with him, it doesn’t mean she is trapped. If anything, I think that Holly and “Fred” complement each other. She inspires him to write and he’s charmed by her hard to figure out and follow personality. The pair even spend a whole day doing things that they’ve never done before together and it’s one of the most charming scenes in this movie. 

Style. 

I want to take a moment to appreciate the movie’s opening scene because I think it is a beautiful and cleverly shot opening scene. The movie opens on a scene of a beautifully empty fifth avenue in the early morning. A woman in a black dress, Holly, only we don’t know that yet, is looking into the window at Tiffany’s. She’s eating a pastry and drinking a coffee. She’s all alone. She’s got dark sunglasses on. We only see her through the reflection of the store window and I just think this is a brilliant opening scene. We are filled with questions. Who is this woman? Where was she? Why is she at Tiffany’s? All of these questions are fantastic because Holly is a character who evokes nothing but questions. She’s a riddle, right from the opening credits. 

Later, when Holly tells “Fred” about how much she loves Tiffany’s and how she goes there whenever she needs to feel better, this opening scene can be viewed differently. It’s open to interpretation, but I think one could say that Holly was at Tiffany’s early in the morning after a bad date with a client, hence the black dress, and she wanted to chase away the “mean reds”, so she went to Tiffany’s and longingly stared into the window while she ate her breakfast. 

I also think that the emptiness of fifth avenue could be open to interpretation too. Was the street really empty or did it just appear empty because Holly was lost in her own world? 

Was the empty street a metaphor for the emptiness in Holly’s life? I like to think about this sometimes. Some may say that is a stretch but that is the beauty of personal interpretation. 

Structure. 

There is something about the way this movie flows, it is almost like a free verse poem, perhaps because Holly is such a free person. The scenes seem to melt together in a dreamy sort of way. It is a visually beautiful movie. I’ve said before that it looks like a painting. There is something incredibly charming about it and I always enjoy it whenever I watch it. 

Final Thoughts. 

If you’re an Audrey Hepburn fan, watch this movie. If you have never seen this movie, watch it. While it is very different from the novella, I think that it is still a very enjoyable movie to watch. There is something very peaceful about this movie, there is a certain charm to this movie, it is visually stunning, the story is compelling and I think that it is just a lovely romantic movie that hits the heartstrings because the idea of wanting to find somewhere where we belong is very universal. I think that Holly is an iconic character because even though she can be a complex riddle, I think in many ways, her fears, her vulnerabilities, her anxieties etc., are very relatable which makes the movie much more enjoyable. I think at some point we all just want to feel like we belong, which is why we hope that Holly finally finds that place she’s searching for, because we all hope we will find that place too. 

This has been Movie Monday. 

Kate xo.

West Side Story (1961).

Hello everyone. Welcome back to another #moviemonday. 

Today I am talking about West Side Story. I am talking about the 1961 version today and in a few weeks I will talk about the latest version that came out in 2021, and I will compare both versions and decide which one I prefer. 

I am starting with the 1961 version directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins because this version was the first version of West Side Story that I watched, so this is the version that introduced me to this story. It is a story that I am very familiar with, it’s one that I really enjoy. I was in a production of West Side Story when I was a teenager in drama classes so I think I’ll always love it just because I have so many lovely memories associated with this piece. 

Let’s dive into Movie Monday. 

Plot. 

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story follows the love story of Maria and Tony, two people who love each other but are forbidden to see each other because they belong to rival teenage gangs. The Jets and the Sharks are fighting for control of the Upper West Side. They have planned a rumble so whoever wins will get control of the territory once and for all. Despite all the hatred around them, Maria and Tony fall deeper in love and they don’t care who disapproves. They plan to get married and they also try to stop the rumble but alas, disaster ensues. 

Characters. 

I am going to talk about Maria, Tony, Bernardo, and Anita, because I believe these characters are the “core four” characters of this movie. The entire ensemble is incredible. 

Maria and Tony are the movie’s main protagonists. The star-crossed lovers are the movie’s Romeo and Juliet. 

Maria is sweet and kind, and a tad naive. She is portrayed as the innocent one because of how much her overbearing older brother Bernado worries about her. Maria really comes into her own as the story progresses. She does not hate Tony just because her brother and the Sharks tell her she should. She makes up her own mind, and despite the pressures that she faces, she refuses to blindly accept an arranged marriage, and she fights for the man she loves. Maria plans a life for herself with Tony, and she learns that she is capable of using her own voice to speak up for herself. 

Tony is the former leader of the Jets. Seeing as this is a movie that is inspired by the stage musical,  Tony really is the ideal male lead. He’s romantic, he’s kind, he’s cleaned himself up and he now lives a life that does not involve gangs but he still loves his friends and he is very loyal to them, so he does feel torn between his love for his friends and his growing love for Maria, but overall, he knows that all this hatred and violence is wrong and so he does genuinely try to make things right. He is a very sincere character and I can’t help but find him endearing. 

Bernardo is Maria’s older brother. He is the leader of the Sharks. He is fiercely proud, and he is extremely protective of Maria. He feels he knows what is best for her and I’d argue that he treats her as younger than she actually is. He is a kind character, but he has gotten swept up in all of the hatred and the violence. 

Anita is possibly my favourite character. She is Maria’s best friend, and she is Bernardo’s girlfriend. She is more mature than Maria, she’s spunky, she’s more confident. She has really come into her own before the movie begins, whereas we are watching Maria come into her own during the course of the story, which makes sense as this is Maria and Tony’s story, but it is brilliant seeing the strong, smart woman that is Anita. She really is the voice of reason sometimes and I think she is the character who sees things very clearly. She sees that all of the hatred won’t end just because Maria and Tony love each other, it’s gone on too long. She sees the danger in the world, and she wants Maria to be aware of that danger too. She knows that Maria and Tony being together is near impossible and so she tries to be a good friend to Maria by pointing this out. Anita is loyal to Bernardo, but she is also able to put her own views aside and listen to Maria. She is a true friend, and a fantastic singer, and I think that Rita Moreno did an incredible job of portraying her in this movie. Her songs are dynamic, and some of the scenes she does are quite intense. There is one moment in particular that always makes me tear up. There will be no spoilers here, but if you know the story then you should know what scene I am referring to, it is a scene where Anita’s strength is truly laid bare for all to see, and it is very powerful. 

Themes. 

West Side Story is a truly powerful piece as it deals with some very complex themes that still remain prevalent and universal today. As this piece is inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the movie’s major theme is that love should conquer hatred. This is a movie about two people who have managed to put all of their perceived differences aside, and love each other despite all of the hatred and ignorance around them. Maria and Tony, like Romeo and Juliet, can see that all of this violence and feuding is pointless and it is dangerous, and they are striving for peace. Gang violence is an unavoidable theme of this movie as the entire plot is fuelled by this upcoming rumble for control of the territory. West Side Story adds an element that does not exist in Shakespeare’s text. Romeo and Juliet come from feuding families yes, but both are wealthy, upstanding families. West Side Story is set in New York. The Jets are American and the Sharks are immigrants from Puerto Rico so in this movie, the dangers of racism and ignorance are also key themes in this piece. The Jets and the Sharks hate each other because of preconceived prejudices and ignorant ideas about each other and this movie shows how destructive racism, poverty, and ignorance can be. It’s a very powerful message and unfortunately it is a message that some people still need to learn in 2022. The piece holds a mirror up to society as it really is a piece about morality. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet has always been a piece about morality. It forces people to look at themselves and realise that they are part of the problem, they are forced to reflect upon the views that they hold and ask themselves why do they think this way? Can they overcome it? Can they overcome differences? Was all of the violence worth it? Were the lives that were lost worth it? In West Side Story all of these questions are explored. It is a moving, powerful piece that is only highlighted by a beautiful, dynamic score. 

Structure. 

When you go to see a show in the theatre, there is an act one and an act two, and I think that this movie does a good job of remaining faithful to the original stage musical as I would say that the movie plays out in two-acts instead of the more common three-act structure. 

There are three key events. The dance, the rumble, and after the rumble. 

The dance is where Maria and Tony meet and this is the event that truly kicks off the plot because now the star-crossed romance has begun. 

The rumble is important because this is the event that holds all the stakes. The entire movie has been leading us to this rumble. Maria and Tony have been trying to stop it, the others have been preparing for it. The audience knows that no good can come from this rumble. It’s senseless. We know violence will occur and all of the hatred between the two gangs will come to a head so there is no good outcome here. The stakes are high and it’s great because despite all of the important and complex themes, the plot itself is not overly difficult or complicated. It’s rival gangs who are going to violently fight, and this really straightforward premise allowed the movie to explore ideas of love, hatred, coming of age, racism, poverty, and violence. 

After the rumble is important because it is in the aftermath where all of the movie’s key themes really make their point. Are these people really that different? No. Should they be able to put their prejudice to one side because they are all human beings? Yes. Was all of this violence worth it? No. 

The aftermath of the rumble is quiet and poignant, and I think this is where the movie really shines. 

Yes it’s a musical, so there is wonderful music, colourful, elaborate dance routines, at times it is larger than life, it is funny, but at its core there is a great heart to this movie. It is a piece that explores really heavy topics in a very artistic yet impactful way. 

Final Thoughts. 

If you have seen the 2021 adaptation of West Side Story and you enjoyed it, go and watch the 1961 version if you haven’t seen it already. There is a reason why it is considered one of the greatest movie-musicals there is. I’m really looking forward to seeing the newest adaptation of this movie, and I will talk about it in time, but I am so glad that the 1961 version is the version that introduced me to this story. It is brilliant. I love the songs, I love the cast, the costumes are stunning, the ensemble numbers are fantastic. The emotions and themes that are explored are utterly compelling. There is a reason why this story is told again and again. I think it is a timeless piece. Go watch it if you don’t believe me. You’ll have a great time. 

This has been Movie Monday. Have you seen West Side Story? Do you have a favourite version? 

Let me know. 

Kate xo.

Scream.

Hello everyone. Welcome back to another #moviemonday. 

Today I’ve decided to talk about the original Scream. Let’s dive in. 

This movie was released in 1996 and it was directed by Wes Craven. 

Plot. 

This movie takes us to the fictional town of Woodsboro, where a mysterious killer is running around in a Halloween costume. This killer seems to target Sidney Prescott, a young high school girl who is struggling with the impending anniversary of her mother’s death. 

The movie is sort of a combination of a slasher and a mystery movie because the movie plays with horror tropes, spells them out and attempts to subvert them, while also keeping watchers guessing who the masked killer is. 

I think that Scream is really clever because it is almost a really dark comedy about horror movies. This movie makes fun of horror tropes, while also demonstrating how thought provoking the horror genre can be, and it is easy to see why this movie stood out when it was first released because it was the first horror movie to break the fourth wall almost, because the characters in the movie are aware of horror movies. They talk about horror movies, they watch horror movies, and all of the characters play a certain role. 

Characters. 

Sidney Prescott is the movie’s main protagonist. She is smart, she’s kind, she’s a normal high school student. She has good friends, a boyfriend whom she loves, and all is going well except for the fact that the anniversary of her mother’s death is approaching. Sidney’s mother was murdered so this first anniversary is obviously very difficult for her and it is made even more difficult when this masked killer shows up in town. 

Sidney is set up to be a horror protagonist who is not like other horror protagonists. She doesn’t believe in the set up of “scary movies” and she often points outs things that she thinks are ridiculous about horror movies. For example, she says that the girl always “runs up the stairs instead of out the front door” – I’ve paraphrased this line here, but the idea is that Sidney is poking fun at the stereotypical girl that tends to star in horror movies. There is often a trope in horror movies where the female character is being chased by the killer and rather than running out the door, they run upstairs which only leaves them with nowhere to go. 

Sidney is smart and she is strong and throughout this movie she has some incredible scenes where she fights back and the action scenes are really enjoyable to watch. 

This is an interesting movie because it has a really strong cast of ensemble characters. There’s Sidney, her boyfriend Billy, her best friend Tatum and her brother Dewey. There’s Randy, the movie nerd, he’s the one who tells the rest of the characters, and the audience, all about the “rules” of horror movies, so I would say that Randy is the one who is pointing out the horror tropes, and demonstrating how Scream is attempting to subvert them. There’s Stu, Cotton Weary, the man who Sidney believes killed her mother, so much so that she testified against him, and finally there is Gale Weathers, the most opportunistic and ambitious reporter you’ll ever see. 

The movie’s antagonist is the killer obviously. This masked killer goes by the name “Ghostface” because of the Halloween mask he wears while committing his crimes. “Ghostface” is a vicious, sadistic killer who likes to taunt his victims on the phone before he chases them down and kills them with a knife. “Ghostface” is a very creepy antagonist because of the way he lurks around corners. The audience knows someone else is going to be murdered when we see a shot of “Ghostface” lurking in the background. 

I obviously won’t be revealing who “Ghostface” is because that would spoil the whole movie, but what I will say is that I think Scream is extremely well written because at some point, in seems that anyone could be the killer. As I was watching I was trying to guess, and because of the way the movie subverts horror tropes, I was making guesses but then changing my mind because it seemed too obvious, only to circle back and think well maybe the movie is trying to throw me off by being so obvious. The movie knew what it was doing, the premise was very clever and it was executed really well. 

The other character that I can talk about in more detail without spoiling any details is Gale. At first I disliked Gale because of her uncaring attitude towards the victims in the stories she is reporting. At the beginning of the movie, Gale sees every case as an opportunity for a story, for publicity for herself, she wants to make the news, she wants to be the one reporting it but as time goes on, she becomes less exploitative and more caring towards Sidney and the other people of Woodsboro. I thought she was a really interesting character because in a way I felt she was a mirror of society, I felt that she represented the way in which society can be fascinated by crimes and by violence. I mean there is a reason why murder mysteries and detective shows are so popular, and it is because there is something unexplainably desirable about experiencing violence in a safe way. That’s why it’s called a morbid fascination. We want to know the details of events that have taken place, we want to know who did it and why, but we don’t want to be part of the violence ourselves. This movie and Gale’s character points out why people enjoy horror, it’s scary and thrilling, and morbidly fascinating, but at the end of the day, the events that are occurring in Woodsboro are not entertaining, or at least they shouldn’t be.  

Themes.

It goes without saying that violence is a major theme of this movie. It is a horror movie about a masked killer who prefers to stab his chosen victims to death, and while it is a funny movie too, there are some scenes that if you’re squeamish like me you should definitely avert your eyes during them. This may be an underrated take, but I think that an underlying theme of this movie is the idea of a love for film. Randy’s character specifically loves horror movies and so he is the one explaining the “rules” of a horror movie. The movie then plays out these rules in front of our eyes, and this demonstrates a real love for film because the movie pays homage to, and also subverts classic horror movie tropes and themes. I said already that I think it was a really well written piece because this premise was really clever, at the time of this movie’s release this kind of satire in horror movies was unique, and the idea was executed really well. 

Structure.

The movie is an hour and fifty minutes long. I would say that this movie follows a three-act structure. The movie opens with a young girl making popcorn alone in her house, and while she’s doing this she gets a phone call from the killer. He taunts her on the phone, quizzing her about horror movies, and when she fails to get his questions right, he reveals that he has killed her boyfriend. The girl, played by Drew Barrymore, attempts to escape but the killer gets her and her death is what establishes what this movie’s plot is going to be – a sadistic killer is on the lose and he’s not finished yet. 

The second act of the movie is when the killer seems to set Sidney in his sights and he harasses her on the phone. This is the part of the movie where the audience begins to question who the killer is and it becomes apparent that it could be anyone. The ensemble are trying to live their lives while dealing with the fact that there is a killer in their midst. 

The final act is the final showdown. We know that Sidney will battle “Ghostface” at some point in time, it’s a question of when, not if, and we are hoping that Sidney will be the last girl standing. We also know that before this movie ends we will need to learn who the killer is, so the stakes get higher and the action gets more intense, and the movie really ramps up the tension before the reveal. 

I think the movie moves at a nice pace because it doesn’t feel too long, but it’s also not rushed so the tension has a chance to sit with us and suspense builds really nicely. 

Final Thoughts. 

I don’t think I ever would have chosen to watch this movie by myself. I’ve said before how I just don’t like blood, but I was told that I would really like this movie because of the mystery aspects to it and because of the way it plays with tropes and themes. As an English Literature student who has studied film theory, I did really enjoy this movie because of this subversion of horror tropes. I like how the movie poked fun of the genre while also being part of it. I thought it was really clever. Despite the moments of gore, I actually really did enjoy this movie and believe it or not, I would watch it again. I’ve recently watched the sequel, and although I hid behind a pillow for certain scenes, I did enjoy that movie too and I am looking forward to finishing the original trilogy. 

If you like scary movies then you’ll like Scream, and I completely understand why this movie has the following that it does. I’m glad that I watched it. I would watch it again. If you don’t like scary movies, I would say that this movie combines elements of horror and elements of dark comedies, so it’s not a gore fest throughout, and at times it even plays like a mystery “who done it?” so you may end up liking it a lot, just like I did. 

This has been Movie Monday. It won’t be long before we move into February and I will be talking about some romantic comedies as we move closer to Valentine’s Day, so I thought that Scream would be a fun choice, especially since I’ve just watched it recently. 

Have a great week. 

Kate xo.  

Monsters, Inc.

Hello everyone. Welcome to another #moviemonday. Apologies that this discussion is late but it couldn’t be helped. In fact, it is almost fitting because after a stressful Sunday, I decided that I wanted to watch a Disney movie because I wanted to unwind so it’s been a bit of a busy week already but now it’s Tuesday and today was a much better day so it is onwards and upwards for the rest of this week.

Monsters, Inc. is a 2001 Pixar movie. It was directed by Pete Docter.

Let’s dive in.

Plot.

This movie takes audiences to a world of monsters, where all the power is fuelled by the screams of children. In order to get the screams, the monsters work at Monsters Incorporated. Sully is the best scarer in the company. The idea is that every night the monsters go through a door and scare a child and their screams are collected in order to give the city electricity. All is going very well until a child ends up in the monsters’ universe. Now Sully and his best friend Mike must get the child, who Sully has affectionately named Boo, home before anyone finds out she is there, but on their journey back to Boo’s door, Sully and Mike discover that there are some secret plots going on in the workplace and they must put a stop to them.

Characters.

James Sullivan, Sully, is the movie’s main protagonist. Sully is a good guy. He’s a hard worker, a great scarer, a good teammate, and a good friend. He’s got everything going for him and when this child ends up in his care, he is logical. He knows no one can find out and he knows that he needs to get her home safely and as the movie goes on, Sully begins to really care about this little girl and so he becomes very fatherly. This little girl teaches Sully a valuable lesson about himself but this is something I will cover in themes.

Mike is Sully’s best friend. He is the wise-cracking comedian of the duo and so some of his reactions to the situations they find themselves in are comedically over the time. At times he gets frustrated by Sully and his feelings get hurt, but at the end of the day he is a true friend and he knows that Sully is doing the right thing so he helps him do it. His comedic talents gain more appreciation at the end of the movie.

Boo is the little girl who finds herself in the world of Monsters Incorporated. She is very sweet and very adventurous and she melts Sully’s heart. She is not old enough to speak properly yet so she communicates through actions and little sounds and some words here and there, but despite her lack of talking, she does not fail to make an impact on Sully.

Randall is the movie’s antagonist. He is Sully’s rival scarer in the company. He is determined to beat Sully in the scaring record and there is a stark difference in Randall’s attitude compared to Sully’s. Sully scares children because it is his job, but he is a kind person when he is off the clock. Randall seems to take delight in the fact that he is terrifying and he is not kind to his fellow co-workers. It is important to note that monsters believe that children and things in the human world are “toxic” so they must never let a child touch them, and they must also avoid touching things like children’s toys.

Sully learns that Boo is harmless which is why he is determined to get her home safely before someone else tries to harm her.

Another key character is Henry J. Waternoose III. He is the CEO of the company and he is determined to never let the company fail and he is worried about the expected “scream shortage”. I think he is a great character because he seems so level headed and fair. He seems kind. We feel we can trust him, but this movie teaches us that the real monsters aren’t always who we think they are.

Themes.

The major theme in this movie is friendship. I also think that the idea of overcoming differences is a huge theme in this movie too. Sully and Mike are the best of friends, always there for each other no matter what. They may have ups and downs but when it comes down to it, they can count on each other. The friendship between Sully, Mike, and Boo is really important. Monsters have been taught that children are a danger to them so when Boo first appears in their world, Sully and Mike are afraid of getting too close to her. Sully is the one who sees she is a harmless little girl so he sets aside all he’s ever been taught and decides that he has to get her home safely. I know it is a children’s movie but I think that this movie really demonstrates how fear can come from ignorance, and I will always point out how children’s movies can be so much more nuanced than they get credit for. There is an idea of overcoming one’s fears that is explored in this movie. Sully and Mike must face their fear and see that Boo is not a threat to them, and Boo learns that she does not need to be afraid of the monsters in her wardrobe. It is funny because Boo is never scared of Sully and Mike, she is only scared of Randall because Randall is her monster. He is the one who goes through her door at night and scares her, so she sees him in that context. Sully is kind to her, he does not pose a threat despite very big and strong so she sees him in only a positive light and I think this demonstrates how very often children are so perceptive. There is a moment in this movie that I love, and it is when Sully is giving a “scare demonstration” upon the request of Mr. Waternoose. Sully demonstrates to new scarers how to scare a child and it is the first time that Boo sees him in a light she views as scary. After this moment, she won’t go near him, she cries, for the first time in this movie, she views him as a monster and Sully, who has seen himself on the monitor, is horrified by what he sees. He sees how scary he looks, he sees how much that would scare a child and he does not like it. He reflects on this. He asks “did you see the way she looked at me?”, and I just think that it is a very powerful moment. I love the classic Disney and Pixar movies for this exact reason. Yes they are created with the target audience being children, but that does not mean they are not good. It does not mean that they are silly. They are often filled with emotional moments, some that we may miss until we watch them again through adult eyes, but I was very impressed with this movie after watching it again because it is funny, I love the premise, I think the concept is clever, but it is also very heartfelt and heartwarming.

Structure.

This movie is 92 minutes long which is the perfect length in my opinion. Something that I like about Disney movies and Pixar movies is that they tend to be only an hour and a half long, most likely because a young child probably would not sit watching for much longer, but these movies prove that you don’t need hours and hours to tell a perfectly rounded out story, you simply need to do well with the time you have. The opening sets up how the monster world works, the incident where a monster is “decontaminated” because they touched a child’s sock shows how afraid of humans the monsters are, and so when Boo ends up in the company, the audience knows Sully has to get her home because she is not safe there. We know that he has to avoid Randall and everyone else, we know he has to get her to her door, we understand the stakes and so as the movie plays out and Sully tries to get Boo home, while bonding with her in the meantime, it means that the movie’s ending is all the more heartfelt. We can see how much he has come to love Boo. We know she has to go home, but we know that this is going to be sad and all the questions that the movie set up are answered, and it’s all done in an hour and a half. Nothing feels rushed, nothing feels half-done, the twists are compelling but they make sense, and so it just shows how a great story can be told in a shorter time frame.

Final Thoughts.

This movie was the perfect cure to a bad day. It was funny, it was really compelling. It had been a few years since I had seen it so I did not remember everything which made watching it again all the more enjoyable. I was fully invested in the story and I think that I would call it one of my favourite Pixar movies. I’d highly recommend it.

This has been #moviemonday.

Kate xo.

Die Hard 4.0

Hello everyone. Welcome back to another #moviemonday. 

Today I am talking about Die Hard 4.0. 

There are five movies in the Die Hard series, I think that the original is the best. I love the third movie too. Last night I watched the fourth movie in the series and because it is a stand alone story, I’m going to discuss it this evening. 

Let’s dive in! 

This movie was released in 2007 and it was directed by Len Wiseman. 

Plot. 

John McClane is back and this time he is battling technology. When he is sent to collect a hacker and bring him to Washington, John thinks it’ll be an easy job but when he arrives at Matt Farrell’s apartment, he ends up fighting off a mysterious group of men who are attempting to kill Matt. 

The two become an unlikely team as they have to figure out a way to save the day when there’s virtual terrorists on the loose. 

Characters. 

John McClane, everyone’s favourite unlikely hero is back. Once again he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and despite his protests, he has to save the day because he’s “that guy”. John is fed up with this happening and so in this movie he is a slightly more unhinged unlikely hero and it is brilliant. He’s quick thinking and sarcastic as always and he doesn’t fail to deliver the action. 

Matt Farrell is our hacker. He is the movie’s main protagonist alongside John. 

Matt is in his twenties and he is a tech wizard, he writes code and throughout the movie he helps John figure out what is going on. He’s nervous and rambling and a bit of a loveable nerd but when the chips are down, Matt steps up to the plate. 

Thomas Gabriel is the movie’s antagonist. He is the man behind the chaos. He is the person who is causing all of the destruction that John and Matt must fix. He is calculated, cunning, and extremely tech savvy. He’s on a quest for revenge. 

John McClane’s daughter Lucy also makes an appearance in this movie and she is every bit her father’s daughter. She’s sarcastic and very intelligent. She’s feisty and when danger lurks, she’s able to hold her own. 

Lucy is also John’s weakness so there are some brilliant moments in this movie when John is fighting for his little girl. 

Themes. 

I would say that the power of technology is a major theme in this movie and while many people have said they dislike this movie, I think it is very good and I actually really like the premise. 

The movie explores what happens when everything that is run by technology gets shut down. Traffic lights are hacked and this causes major collisions. Power is shut off which causes blackouts. Utilities are shut down, alarms are set off, financial sectors crash, and chaos is rampant. It’s the perfect way to take out an entire system. The country is in darkness. 

Another theme is family. John and his daughter have a complex relationship. She is angry with him and she goes by her mother’s maiden name but at the end of the day, Lucy loves her father and she is terrified when she thinks he’s badly hurt. She wants him to make it and John is determined to make sure that nothing happens to her. An important lesson that people should learn is that you do not mess with the people who John McClane loves.

Heroism is another theme. John and Matt have quite a poignant conversation about why John does what he does. Why does he save the day? Why does he run towards danger and not away from it? John says he wishes someone else would save the day so he doesn’t have to, but no one else will do it so that’s why he does. That’s what makes him that guy. John is a hero because he does what he has to do. Matt learns this lesson and he learns that he too is more heroic than he gives himself credit for. 

Structure. 

The movie is just over two hours long but it’s action packed so it doesn’t feel too long. I enjoy how this movie’s threat is more technology based as John must figure out how to fight the bad guys while they’re hacking into his gps, his phone, his radio etc. The movie demonstrates how much of our lives are digitally recorded and it’s fun seeing John out of his depth but still incredibly willing to fight. 

The structure of the movies in the Die Hard collection is always very satisfying as there is always a moment when all the dots connect and we see the full picture. We see the motivations behind each character and we see John’s plan to fix things. This movie is no different. 

Final Thoughts. 

Overall I enjoyed watching this movie. There are some great lines, some brilliant action scenes and while it isn’t the best movie in the series, I think the concept was interesting and well executed. I would recommend giving it a watch. 

This has been Movie Monday. 

I hope you all have a lovely week. 

Kate xo.