At first glance, it seems as though Simon Rumley’s Fashionista wants to be a scathing criticism of the fashion industry. It begins with married couple April (Amanda Fuller) and Eric (Ethan Embry) finding great success with their used clothing store, but struggling greatly in maintaining successful connections with one another. When April discovers that Eric has been sleeping with other women, her life begins spinning violently out of control, leading her into the arms of a mysterious man (Eric Balfour) and into the world of high fashion.
But Fashionista never really has anything provocative to say about the fashion industry. Instead, it’s more of a psychological thriller about the downfall of a woman who just so happens to operate inside of that particular world. There are a few moments in which the film certainly uses clothing as an allegory for various emotions — April and Eric sleep in a room that has been engulfed in fabric — but this is virtually abandoned by the midway point. But despite this, the film manages to remain compelling in a much different way.
Fuller does most of the heavy lifting here as a thirtysomething woman whose entire existence seems to be crumbling around her. She’s understandably erratic, and Fuller does a very good job of conveying the frustration and fear associated with such realizations. Embry, though underutilized, delivers another great performance. Instead of being a one-dimensional cheater prototype, Eric is well-developed and fully realized. Embry brings him to life in a most empathetic way, and you may very well find yourself cheering for him at times.
With a strange aesthetic, surreal sequences, and plenty of mind-bending moments, Fashionista is a pretty bold film that finds Rumley taking a number of daring chances. Some of them work well while other don’t work at all. But it succeeds more often than it fails, and it ends up being an entertaining movie all in all. Before the end credits begin to a roll, a title card explaining that the film was inspired by the work of Nicolas Roeg is displayed, and that influence is occasionally present onscreen.
I’d be lying if I said that Rumley’s previous directorial efforts spoke to me — and his latest honestly isn’t my cup of tea — but I have no qualms with saying that Fashionista is his most interesting film to date. It’s a unique movie with strong performances that isn’t afraid to drift into the world of surrealism. Who can’t appreciate that?
Fashionista recently screened at the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival.