A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Velvet Buzzsaw is both a satire of the art world and a horror movie. Sinister things start to happen after powerful paintings by an unknown artist are discovered after the artist's death. While it's not graphically gory, there's plenty of peril and violence, much of it supernatural in nature: A woman's arm is shorn off, a man is killed by a robot, a tattoo comes to life and tears into a woman's flesh, and more. You can also expect partial nudity (breasts, bottoms) and sexual situations, strong language (including "f--k" and others), and drinking. Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Zawe Ashton co-star.
- Parents say
- Kids say
Velvet Buzzsaw is the first 2019 movie I watch, and it's likely to be on my top 10 disappointing movies of 2019 at the end of the year!
What's the story?
In VELVET BUZZSAW's high-rolling, highfalutin' L.A. world of contemporary art, critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal), art dealer Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo), her assistant Josephina (Zawe Ashton), and others respond to the posthumous discovery of a major new artist. Some try to cash in, some are inspired, some are jealous. But those closest to the newly unearthed works come to realize that there's something more to these paintings ... something sinister.
Is it any good?
This is a strange hybrid of art house film, thriller, comedy, and horror movie; it's not always successful, but when it is, it really is. Velvet Buzzsaw is at its best when it's satirizing the art scene in all its excess (one of the best movies about this is the hard-to-find indie, (Untitled), which is highly recommended). Writer-director Dan Gilroy (of Nightcrawler and Roman J. Israel, Esq., both excellent films) has convincingly crafted a whole world, a whole vernacular. It's a realm of total absorption and self-absorption for many. One woman moans, "I'm through dating artists. They're already in a relationship." And when a critic is enraged at an artist for sleeping with his partner, he screams, "The admiration I had for your work ... has completely ... evaporated!" The ensemble cast is quite good, with Gyllenhaal playing an affected dandy who has actual principles, Russo effective as an ice-cold dealer, and John Malkovich perfectly cast as a somewhat-lost artist who's trying to find himself again. Natalia Dyer of Stranger Things is charming as a low-level assistant, a role that's something of a running joke.
But the film is less effective as a supernatural thriller. Its gimmick is nothing that horror fans won't have seen before, and the peril to which the characters are subjected isn't particularly scary or inventive. What makes it interesting, really, is the juxtaposition of some of these horror clichés and the rest of Velvet Buzzsaw's satirical art-film quality. It's not a great film, but it's weird and watchable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Velvet Buzzsaw. Is it typical horror movie violence? Why or why not?
How does the movie depict the art world? What do you think the filmmakers are trying to say about these people, if anything?
The film relies on certain familiar moral structures (people do bad things, a supernatural force punishes them). Did that make the film predictable? Did that matter?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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