In 2019, reviewing a re-release of Eyes Wide Shut, Peter Bradshaw pointed out that in the age of Epstein, the idea of a secret society of the rich and powerful exploiting the vulnerable no longer seemed far-fetched. Now comes The Scary of Sixty-First, a kind of cinematic love letter to Stanley Kubrick set in the New York of Eyes Wide Shut, about Jeffrey Epstein and the conspiracy theories around his death. It’s a shallow, outrage-baiting movie out to shock but not much else. Disappointingly, the director and co-writer is supersmart switched-on Dasha Nekrasova, an actor who plays Kendall’s press adviser Comfrey in Succession and co-hosts the Red Scare podcast.
The movie begins like an episode of Girls: friends Noelle (co-writer Madeline Quinn) and Addie (Betsey Brown) move into a suspiciously cheap rented apartment in Manhattan’s swanky Upper East Side. Eli Keszler’s pounding synth-y score signals something is up; so too does the creepy second bedroom, which has a mirror on the ceiling and doors that lock from the outside. Then comes a knock at the door. A woman credited only as The Girl (played by Nekrasova, possessing Chloë Sevigny levels of aloof cool), tells them that the apartment was previously owned by Epstein.
Noelle is soon hooked on The Girl and her theories, becoming convinced the Queen is behind Epstein’s death: “The royals will do anything to protect themselves.” Meanwhile, Addie seems to be possessed by one of Epstein’s victims: sucking her thumb and dirty-talking to her boyfriend during sex: “Fuck me like I’m 13.” The movie goes into full schlock giallo mode with a red-lit scene, Addie masturbating while rubbing Prince Andrew wedding memorabilia into her pants.
The point of the film, I think, is to watch it with a clever, detached, critical cool-girl irony. And no doubt I’m walking into a trap finding it troublingly unbothered about Epstein’s actual victims. Still, to me this feels like a silly smirking film with zero insights into abuse or conspiracy theories.