[Fantastic Fest 2020 Review] THE STYLIST

[Fantastic Fest 2020 Review] THE STYLIST
THE STYLIST l Courtesy of Fantastic Fest
There’s a special bond between women and their hairstylist. In the salon chair, people feel they can share a snapshot of their lives and troubles with a sympathetic stranger. When these women come to Claire’s chair for a new look, Claire’s listening ear could mean their doom. The stylist, unassuming and meek, begins to covet their glamorous jobs and families… she wants to take their life.

When one particular client, who has everything that Claire has ever dreamed of, asks Claire to style her hair for her wedding all bets are off and Claire’s bloody secret becomes interwoven with her rage and obsession.

THE STYLIST is directed by Jill Gervargizian and stars Najarra Townsend and Brea Grant.

THE STYLIST is just oozing with blood, menace, and style. The film’s use of color and lighting is incredibly striking and every deranged shot is beautifully set up. Najarra Townsend strikes a perfect balance of psycho and sympathetic and Brea Grant is a charming, magnetic force to root for. The polarity of their respective performances keeps things interesting, all delivered in a gorgeous package.

One of the greatest strengths of THE STYLIST is the film’s ability to balance shocking and abrupt violence with the slow burn of Claire’s obsession. The film takes its time really stretching out the experiences of these two women and allowing the audience to fully understand and get to know them. As frightening as Claire is, she’s a tragic figure and it’s a constant guessing game as to whether or not she is worthy sympathy or too ruthless to be redeemed.

Desire is Claire’s obvious motivator, but the intrigue comes from gradually figuring out what that desire is. Does she simply covet the exciting lives of the women that she encounters? Does she desire love and acceptance, after trauma? Does she covet a victim’s husband and family? Is she infatuated with her client and grappling with the line between love and obsession. This exploration of desire is punctuated with incredible violence as Claire is repulsed by her own actions. She desires, she acts out, and she falls deeper. It’s an excellent exercise in that slow descent into madness and an even better character study.

The flaw of THE STYLIST is primarily that all of that attention to detail and gradual unpacking of Claire’s psyche led to a dragging narrative. These events do not move quickly and a great deal of time is spent on the most minute interactions. Whether or not this pacing is an enhancement or a detriment to the story is a matter of taste. In the opinion of this critic, it’s a delight to slowly descend into Claire’s obsession.

THE STYLIST is immaculately detailed and arresting. From the thoughtful writing and fully realized characters to the beauty of the composition, it’s too twisted to miss!

THE STYLIST held its World Premiere at the 2020 Celebration of Fantastic Fest on September 26, 2020.

Caitlin Kennedy
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