The Stylist (2020)

The Stylist
Director: Jill Gevargizian
Writer: Jill Gevargizian, Eric Havens, Eric Stolze
Cast: Najarra Townsend, Brea Grant, Davis DeRock, Sarah McGuire, Jennifer Seward, Millie Milan, Kimberly Igla, Laura Kirk, Chelsea Brown, Bety Le, Kelsey Nicholes
Part of: SLASH 1/2 Festival
Seen on: 19.6.2021

Claire (Najarra Townsend) is a shy stylist who has the habit of scalping some of her clients so she can feel like she lives a different life for a while. When one of her long-term clients, Olivia (Brea Grant) insists that Claire does her hair for her wedding, Claire grows increasingly more drawn to Olivia and her life. But she still tries to leave her murdering days behind.

The Stylist is an aesthetically very pleasing film that suffers from some lengths around the middle that kept me from really loving it.

The film poster showing the drawing of a wig on a mannequin head, blood running from the hairline.

I just started typing the sentence “The Stylist is very stylish” but had to stop myself, because it is just too on the nose. But also, it’s true. Its aesthetics are really strong, in all regards – from Claire’s fragile beauty and wonderful wardrobe to the lighting, but also in its queerness. Because there are definitely sapphic overtones here that are far from subtle. The film certainly captures the “do I want them or do I want to be like them or both” dynamic that often complicates homosexual relationships, especially when people aren’t quite sure about their sexuality (yet).

But in my mind, there is no doubt that the answer is actually that Claire is absolutely in love with Olivia and probably doesn’t understand that properly (thank you, heteronormativity), leaving her confused and with no other way to react in her extremely limited social competence (to put serial killing mildly). I was, in fact, hoping for a sweet little romance with the coffee shop owner, but it’s quite clear that this was never going to happen (her flirtatiousness with Claire does strengthen my interpretation, though).

Claire (Najarra Townsend) preparing to do Olivia's (Brea Grant) hair.

But unfortunately, right around the middle and just before the showdown, the film takes some very questionable sidesteps that draw things out in a way that made me impatient and hoping for things to move along (I just learned that the movie is the expansion of a short film, and while I don’t think that there is only material in the story for 15 minutes, maybe 80 minutes instead of 100 would have done the trick).

In any case the pacing issues here brought down the entire film a little bit – despite the many things that are really good about it otherwise. Still, a film about a female serial killer with a queer touch? I’m here for that for sure.

Claire (Najarra Townsend) in a club.

Summarizing: I liked it.

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