Medusa Deluxe


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Medusa Deluxe
"While the choreography of all this is audacious, Hardiman is equally interested in dialogue. He loves an intricately worked sentence as much as a finely coiffed barnet." | Photo: Courtesy of London Film Festival

It seems appropriate that this murder mystery, which unfolds in an apparent single take backstage at a hairdressing contest, is filled with cutting remarks and style. After stylist Mosca is found scalped, gossip blooms between the other contestants and their models. Medusa Deluxe is also an apt title, as this turns out to be a serious nest of vipers.

Thomas Hardiman uses the appearance of a single take - hat’s off to editor Foaud Gaber and Jake Whitehouse for his steadicam work - in his debut feature to elevate what could have felt like a stage play to something more sinous and fluid. He has the distinct advantage of having one of the UK’s cinematographic A-listers along to help - Robbie Ryan, who doesn’t put a frame wrong during as he trots up and down corridors and eavesdrops on conversations during this 1hr and 40 min film.

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Beginning with a CGI sequence within a hairbrush - that indicates the blackly comic playfulness that runs throughout - we then meet Cleve (Clare Perkins, spitting out dialogue with the rhythm of a rapper), who is getting and giving the scoop to fellow hairdresser Divine (Kayla Meikle) as she works on her elaborately coiffed “Georgian fontange”. Soon we’ll meet the harried event organiser Rene (Darrell D’Silva), Cleve’s chief rival Kendra (Harriet Webb) and Mosca’s lover Angel (Luke Pasqualino), complete with their baby son. Glowering somewhere in the background is security guy Gac (Heider Ali).

Rather than follow the procedural path of the police investigation into the incident, Hardiman’s film snakes around it allowing the soapy rivalries and tangled relationships between the stylists and their models to take centre stage. While the choreography of all this is audacious, Hardiman is equally interested in dialogue. He loves an intricately worked sentence as much as a finely coiffed barnet. While this may prove a bit rich for some, his ability to find scripting rhythms has an almost jazz-like energy, a sensation heightened by the scoring from Koreless.

If things occasionally become almost too convoluted for their own good as Hardiman amps up the camp, there’s never a dull moment. As the cast - featuring strong support from Anita-Joy Uwajeh, Kae Alexander and Debris Stevenson as the hairdressers' models - glide along the waves of script like expert surfers, you also get a palpable sense of Hardiman as a filmmaker who would rather get wiped out than shy away from a bit of risk. This daring shows particularly in a moment of sudden danger and a coda that sticks a landing you don’t quite expect. Hardiman may sometimes cut things close, but he knows how to weave in a highlight.

Reviewed on: 09 Jun 2023
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A murder mystery set in a competitive hairdressing competition.
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Director: Thomas Hardiman

Writer: Thomas Hardiman

Starring: Clare Perkins, Kayla Meikle, Darrell D’Silva, Anita-Joy Uwajeh, Kae Alexander, Heider Ali, Luke Pasqualino, Debris Stevenson, Lilit Lesser

Year: 2022

Runtime: 101 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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