Fashionista (2016) [Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2017]

As her life implodes, a woman with a clothing obsession finds herself in a position she’d never imagined and must do what’s needed to survive.

Written and directed by Simon Rumley, Fashionista is an interesting take on the power of materialism and what some will do to chase that endorphin high. He takes a story that seems fairly simple and adds a few more layers to the psychology of the characters and how they interact. The film is one of those that will either connect or bore the viewer, but most likely won’t leave many just middle of the road. It has interesting visuals and characters along with good ideas, but due to how it’s built, it takes quite a while to setting up the lead and her husband before anything really happens which leads to a lack of attention from viewers until things kick in and get properly odd. At that point, the film takes a turn and remains interesting until the end. The twists and turns with the not quite linear timeline make for a complex film to watch and one that must be paid attention to in order to understand it.

The leads are each well played with interesting interpretations. Ethan Embry as Eric, the husband, is possibly the best performance of the bunch, giving his character a complex, conflicted quality. His work here gives some of the oddity brought to the screen a sort of realism, an anchor in reality even though is character is not really one the viewer will want to root for. Playing April, the lead is Amanda Fuller who does fantastic work. Her character is one that deals with many issues ranging from emotional emptiness to addiction to clothes. She plays her with a layered performance that is great, with the exception of a few scenes which are easily forgiven, and she clearly gives this her all, bring strong emotions to her part and passing them to the viewers. Her performance is the pivotal one of the film and she makes it all work. Playing Randall, a mysterious, jerk-y man who swoops in and tries to help April with ulterior movies, Eric Balfour gives a performance that makes the viewer believe he is, in fact, a huge asshole. His performance starts off skeevy and it builds up until he’s just hate-able. The supporting cast is also good with a few surprises including Alex Essoe whose part will not be spoiled here.

The film has a very specific look for the characters to evolve in. The production design by John Parker makes good uses of the locations and creates a visually busy look for the film. His work with the costume design by Olivia Mori give the film a look that feels like Austin, or what someone who’s never been to Austin would think it should look and feel like. The look of the film is interesting but may come off as hipster-y to some. This seems to be deliberate and eventually, as the run time advances, it makes sense and it forgotten about completely. Adding to the look of the film is cinematography by Milton Kam who creates images that fit the characters and settings and change depending on the characters April is encountering or spending time with. The house she shares with Eric is artsy, definitely that of people with and appreciate for a variety of things, including a few offensive one, while also loving their own comfort and being pack-rats. The house where Randall lives is almost a polar opposite to the previous one and it is being shot in a much colder way. This way of shooting different locations and characters adds a lot to how they are viewed and felt.

Fashionista is an artsy, somewhat horror film that touches on many themes including mental illness, addiction, what people will do for their endorphin kick, and how one can react to losing everything. It’s done in an interesting manner but it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. Some of it is trippy, some of it is hipster-y, and most of it is interesting. The ending is a bit of a surprise and it brings up a whole new layer to the film. It’s definitely a visually strong film with good to great performance, but it’s also one that is a slow burn in which the connection of the viewer with the characters will decide if they love or hate it.