Title: The Stylist
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Jill Gevargizian
Starring: Najarra Townsend, Davis DeRock, Brea Grant
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins
What It Is: Claire, a lonely hairstylist, has a secret and perverted obsession with the lives of her clients. However this time around, she might take it a bit too far.
What We Think: Funnily enough, I actually saw The Stylist short film last year on YouTube and it was really great… which made my expectations for the feature-length adaptation very uneasy. For the past few years, all of the shorts I’ve seen made into features have never lived up to the uniqueness of the original, such as Cargo and Lights Out (Whiplash is one exception), usually having their ideas or plots stretched out like bubblegum and getting stuck on the bottom of Netflix’s desk.
For The Stylist, I’m afraid it falls into the same trap. But, it has some incredible moments! Najarra Townsend returns in the leading role from the original short and her performance is magnificent. She really went deep into the characters psychological turmoil and anxiety, making for a captivating depiction of a serial killer. Also returning from the short are the very well shot montages of Claire with her clients: close-ups of her eyes mesmerized in her work, her hands and tools running through their hair, fused together with smooth dissolves. The film’s cinematography is beautiful at times. There were even some sequences where I felt like I was watching a classic Fincher thriller (one in particular with yellowish-green lighting and dark shadows). The color-grading is excellent, so in terms of presentation, The Stylist is a good looking film. On a quick note: for fans of the original short there are, of course, easter eggs throughout the film (I managed to catch a few, being that I watched the short before watching the feature) and it’s always fun to spot/discover something in the background.
If that last paragraph didn’t give you a hint, everything in The Stylist that I enjoyed is entirely from the original short, which brings me to my main thoughts while watching this film: let down. There are many instances where the film seemed to ‘fill in’ its empty spaces, with scenes that lasted too long or characters that didn’t need introducing. If I had to explain it in the simplest way, the logline for the original short contrasts with what this film was trying to accomplish:
“A psychopathic hairstylist collects scalps and wears them — in an attempt to escape herself.”
If anything, I wanted the feature-length adaptation to explore that character’s backstory in a more profound way. And yes, there are glimpses into that backstory, but the film focuses on what she’s doing rather than revealing what she did to get to that point. For the sake of spoilers I won’t get too into it, but a certain thing she does to her victims in the short was very shocking and unsettling. Having her do more of those deeds throughout the film really lowers the shock value while at the same time desensitizing their execution every time it happens.
Our Grade: C+: My common criticism with some indie films is that they would ‘work much better as a short’. Well, this is a unique case where the short works better than the feature. The feature has it’s moments and it’s an OK watch, but the short is much more effective. Nonetheless, The Stylist is a great concept and I would like to see what Jill Gevargizian comes up with next.