2018, NR, 110 min. Directed by Simon Rumley. Starring Amanda Fuller, Ethan Embry, Eric Balfour, Devin Bonnée, Alexandria DeBerry, Alex Essoe.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Feb. 9, 2018
Who doesn’t love the feel of comfortable fabric against their skin? A blouse, a dress, a nicely cut pair of pants: Nice clothes make you feel good. Simon Rumley, the British-born, Austin-residing filmmaker’s new film takes that tactile sensation and turns it into an obsession in his new thriller Fashionista. April (Fuller) runs a clothing boutique with her husband Eric (Embry) and they both live in a loft overflowing, hoarder-style, with their overstock of all manner of apparel, filling the edges of every frame. It soon becomes clear that April has a special relationship with clothing (she likes to masturbate in various outfits). She begins to suspect that Eric may be having an affair, a thought that furthers her tenuous grasp on reality. Proven right, she spirals into the arms of slick rich dude Randall (Balfour, who your uncle may recognize as being a bit player on various network TV shows like 24) who’s into all manner of kinky sex stuff to which he introduces April. Soon enough, a dead body appears, a homeless musician with a heart of gold shows up, and a series of scenes involving another woman (Starry Eyes’ Essoe) being released from some sort of psychiatric hospital adds to the mystery.
It’s a film that tries somewhat desperately to walk that fine line of explication vs. obfuscation and it doesn’t quite stick the landing. But when you see the closing credit shout-out to director Nicolas Roeg, it all makes sense.
Rumley dedicates the film to the British iconoclast, whose breakout film Performance (and perhaps 1988’s Track 29) this film most resembles, in the tradition of narrative beguilement. Fashionista’s story is broken into pieces, with a fragmented timeline that seeks to alternatively build and release the tension, but unfortunately rarely succeeds. Fuller’s performance is the fulcrum here, and she carries it well, but the film meanders around, too concerned with highlighting Eric’s tattoos and Randall’s minimalist condo. But it’s all of a piece, right? Except these pieces don’t really fit in the end. Rumley reaches by telling a story of a woman at odds with her body image, and the subsequent psychosis that entails, and the holes in the narrative that the viewer ends up left with can’t be chalked up to the lack of mothballs. Rumley is a talented, distinctive voice, and I can’t wait to see what he does next, but Fashionista feels less like haute couture and more like prêt-à-porter (okay, I couldn’t resist).