Prior to “Fashionista”, many will be familiar with Rumley due to his 2010 thriller “Red, White & Blue”, which received relative success on the horror focused film festival circuits. His other efforts since then can be largely defined by the same genre, unnerving and brooding films that don’t rely on large budgets to get the message across. The simplicity creating layers of realism, a somewhat less polished effect that results in a true sense of discomfort.
The film appears over-exposed, and with flashes of neon brightness, it appeared like you had stumbled across a non-existent VHS tape of Refn’s “The Neon Demon”. It creates a disorientating and straining effect, and the likenesses in this area to “Requiem for a Dream” don’t just stop at the visual sense.
The story is centred around April, played brilliantly by Amanda Fuller, and her relationship with her husband/employer Eric (Ethan Embry). They run a vintage clothing store, but this has manifested itself into a dangerous clothes collecting addiction for April. She stands, rubbing and smelling the clothes over and over, essentially fetishizing their existence. This addiction remains prevalent, but outwardly under control, constantly on the cusp of an explosion as you begin to wonder, when will this stop?
This could be manageable if April wasn’t subject to intense emotional manipulation from the men in her life. Firstly, Eric, who she suspects of cheating on her with the new starter in the store. Secondly, in an attempt to “get back” at Eric, she begins seeing a greasy, rich guy (Eric Balfour) who feeds her clothing obsession with his credit card, in exchange for pushing her to her sexual limitations while satisfying his urges. This culminates in a harrowing scene but offers a different type of horror to what we are used to seeing from Rumley.
This combustible scenario is delivered with increasing levels of paranoia and intrigue. With an explicitly stated homage to Nicolas Roeg, the storyline is displayed in a nonlinear fashion, dancing around between present and future. Gradually, the pieces begin to fall into place, as the distance between the present and the future get closer together, the jumps on the timeline begin to gradually intensify. While confusing at times, it delivers its desired effect, because all is not what it seems, and the emotionally conflicting turmoil taking place in April’s head is as unclear as we are witnessing on screen.
“Fashionista” is one of the more accomplished films I have seen from Rumley. Aided by the incredible central performance from Amanda Fuller, backed by an appropriately varied score and encompassing multiple elements of paranoia, addiction and mental instability, it is a well-rounded film that will sit with you for hours, if not days, afterwards.