Review: Medusa Deluxe deserves praise for its technical work as the movie has long strings of unbroken shots and camera movements. The film suffers from some storytelling clichés, but a strong debut movie from Thomas Hardiman nevertheless.
Medusa Deluxe is the newest movie released by A24, this time directed by debut filmmaker Thomas Hardiman. The movie follows a variety of talented and cutthroat hairstylists reeling from the murder of one of their own. Taking place right before the beginning of their latest competition, the film tracks their long-simmering resentment towards one another and paranoia that the killer may be among them.
Medusa Deluxe includes quite a bit of technical achievement, most notably it’s unbroken, single shot design that weaves through the neon-lit halls of a competition studio. Director Thomas Hardiman is taking notes directly out of Gaspar Noé’s playbook by relying heavily on these concise, swift camera movements and swivels as the primary source for changing scenes rather than straight cuts.
And, frankly, it’s hard not to think about Noé’s Climax frequently as you watch Medusa Deluxe – almost to the point of exhaustion. It’s really flashy filmmaking, but the movements don’t justify a worthy experience by themselves. Climax had incredible choreography and self-indulgent excess that I found routinely exhilarating. That was missing for long swaths of Medusa Deluxe, which could’ve helped make the runtime feel more buttoned up and easier to digest.
On its own terms, however, it’s a pretty remarkable debut feature film for Hardiman considering the technical work involved. The set designs are marvelous as the styling rooms are lined with bright lights and an overwhelming selection of mirrors that help give depth to the scenery. The movie begins in one particular hairstylist’s station, which offers the full array of visual motifs the film eventually builds on.
The casting is on point, too, between the eclectic characters all with very distinct personalities. Clare Perkins’ turn as the unabashed Cleve probably wins the gold, but not before beating out several other flamboyant and ludicrous personalities, like Heider Ali’s paranoia-driven performance as Gac, or Luke Pasqualino stealing scenes as the deceased’s significant other Angel. They’re all over the top performances, but they work in conversation with one another.
One note of emphasis is obviously in the hairstyling and costumes for the film, which isn’t more present than Kae Alexander as Inez. She sports some incredible costume design frequently throughout the film, which makes Medusa Deluxe feel so alive and real as it weaves through the narrative.
The themes aren’t that dense here, opting instead to focus on mood and tone. It’s an audacious whodunit, believing in the notion that more is always more. There are constant disruptions and outbursts between the players, all suspecting at different points that one another committed the crime in question.
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The cinematography and single shot framing device only adds to the claustrophobic feeling that the walls are closing in on the killer. There are long, frantic confrontations that feel heightened when the camera comes to a halt, only for us to follow along when a new character takes center stage wandering into the next office space or corridor.
The pacing falls short of the mark in Medusa Deluxe, though, feeling rigid when comparing the plot to its runtime. There isn’t enough material to fill space in this movie – perhaps I would’ve felt more invested had it been tightened up by 15 minutes or so. There’s a more rewarding watch within this film, but like I said earlier, I think many of the goals that this film has were already achieved in Climax for how audacious, suspenseful, and lively it is.
By the time Medusa Deluxe hits the third act, it feels more like you’re watching someone work through a technical exercise than a riveting movie. The plot itself needed more idiosyncrasies or set pieces to get your mind churning rather than using the same wash, rinse, repeat structure of watching characters frame one another time and time again.
Or it could’ve gone full chamber piece, focusing strictly on dialogue – but Medusa Deluxe doesn’t have the script tough enough to handle that burden by itself. A few more rewrites and I think this could’ve been a really strong, inventive arthouse thriller.
But it’s still an occasionally impressive, certainly promising debut by Thomas Hardiman. He strives to achieve a lot in just one film, and I admire the ambition to think so far outside the box right away. I hope that he continues to push boundaries on a technical level when it comes to camera work, but I hope he gets to work with a script that offers a wider variety of physical and emotional elements.
Where to watch Medusa Deluxe: VOD
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Film Cast and Credits
Anita Joy-Uwajeh as Timba
Clare Perkins as Cleve
Darrell D’Silva as Rene
Debris Stevenson as Etsy
Harriet Webb as Kendra
Heider Ali as Gac
Kae Alexander as Inez
Luke Pasqualino as Angel
Director: Thomas Hardiman
Writer: Thomas Hardiman
Cinematography: Robbie Ryan
Editor: Fouad Gaber
Medusa Deluxe movie on Letterboxd
Medusa Deluxe movie on IMDb