Parents' Guide to

Velvet Buzzsaw

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Supernatural violence, sex in art satire/horror hybrid.

Movie R 2019 112 minutes
Velvet Buzzsaw Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 14+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 16+

It misses more than it hits...a shame

This film almost works...and I want it to work, but it just doesn't. Gyllenhaal is performing his LA snottiest best as is Russo, but I was just not convinced by Ashton's portrayal. I found her to be one note, dull, and I could not understand any of her character's motivations, and considering she is in A LOT of scenes it affected the flow of the film. Also, the story becomes a bit predictable on top of being parodic and Scream-like. A bit gratuitously gruesome for my personal taste there are still some good performances and the black comedy elements work well.
age 16+

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!

Velvet Buzzsaw is thought-provoking, but not in a good way. My mind couldn't stop thinking throughout its 113 minute runtime; only to make sure if I'm really getting all what is going on, or the plot is so profound and smart that I'm only seeing the surface of it. The dialogue sounded very sophisticated, and everything was very stylish. Alas, the movie is utterly pretentious, and isn't half intelligent as it tries to be. The movie just liked to overstylize while it tried to distract you from its overly-expository dialogue, and its incoherent plot. But this is just the tip of the iceberg! Only five minutes through the movie, I could tell that Velvet Buzzsaw is nothing but a typical Netflix movie; not like Roma, but much more like Mute. The production design, for instance, is surprisingly cheap and poor (considering the movie is about Art) that made the movie looks more like an episode of a TV-Series than an actual movie. There are some stunning colorful shots, though. Thanks in large part to the cinematographer Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood). In the first 10 minutes we are introduced to many characters on after another who I wish if I cared about any of them. Aside from Josephina, played by Zawe Ashton, I was hardly invested in any of the characters. The stellar cast is not to blame of course; Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Toni Collette, they really did their best. What's worse than the overabundance of characters, whom I didn't care about, is that almost half of them are pretty much needless and don't have much to add to the story. Dan Gilroy's use of foreshadowing is as unsubtle as it gets. I mean he abruptly quite literally focuses on particular things that would have a major role in the plot later on. Some of the images Gilroy throws right in your face are just for a satirical purpose. By the way, Velvet Buzzsaw falls completely flat as a satirical movie, If you haven't already expected that. Its satire is blatantly toothless and blunt. The way Gilroy moves between the characters is quite impressive. It's slick, and also make you feel as if all the characters are suspicious, and always keep an eye on each other. As a horror film, Velvet Buzzsaw doesn't have many horror elements, except some "scary" scenes and jumpscares scattered throughout the second half that are as laughably cheap as those you see in trashy dumb slasher horror flicks. As a result, the movie has a painfully inconsistent tone. I would be lying if I said that I wasn't interested at some point in the story, and wanted to know what would happen. Nevertheless, that was only for about 10 minutes in the second act, and then the movie lost me again pretty quick. I can't express how frustrated and underwhelmed I am, especially when the movie marks the second collaboration between one of my all-time favorite actors Jake Gyllenhaal and the talented filmmaker Dan Gilroy, after the first movie they made together, Nightcrawler, which is one of my all-time favorites, and one of the few movies I gave them the perfect score. It's not the first time though for Gilroy to disappoint me, for he did back in 2017 with his mediocre film, Roman J. Israel, Esq. Low your expectations, because Velvet Buzzsaw is yet another Netflix movie. (4/10)

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (4 ):

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.

Movie Details

  • On DVD or streaming: February 1, 2019
  • Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal , Rene Russo , Zawe Ashton
  • Director: Dan Gilroy
  • Inclusion Information: Female actors
  • Studio: Netflix
  • Genre: Horror
  • Run time: 112 minutes
  • MPAA rating: R
  • MPAA explanation: sexual content, language and brief graphic nudity
  • Last updated: February 18, 2023

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