Mark Rylance is a steady hand in almost any situation, but seeing him play a gentlemanly “cutter” from Britain’s famous Savile Row? Bliss.
I’ll admit to being rather kerfuffled by the idea that a first-time director like author Graham Moore taking on a story about a seasoned craftsman, but when you assemble the right team the process can be smoothed out so you don’t see the wrinkles, even if the edges are a tad more frayed than they should be. The seams aren’t splitting and the stitching, while not perfect, has woven a product full of care and ambition that might not immediately be relevant, but is nonetheless full of class and style.
Insert another suit pun here.
Leonard Burling (Mark Rylance) is a tired but dedicated “cutter,” a suit-maker that apprenticed in Britain before moving to Chicago and opening a shop (he takes mild offense to anyone using the word “tailor”). His dedication to his work is only outweighed by the quiet, fatherly affection he feels for his assistant, Mable (Zoey Deutch). The two work day in and day out; one a bemused but dedicated artist and the other a bored but caring dreamer with ambitions of her own. One dark night, while Leonard is closing shop, Mable’s boyfriend and his handler burst in the door, the former with lead in his gut and the latter full of piss and vinegar. See, Mable’s been dating Richie Boyle (Dylan O’Brien), the son of local mob boss Roy Boyle (Sir Simon Russell Beale), and a war has just broken out with another local gang.
Things get worse for our leads and much more fun for the audience, don’t you worry.
It’s a difficult job to take on such a complicated narrative, one that plays with enough varied characters and situations that some directors might get lost in the shuffle. It’s a wonder Graham Moore was able to tackle this as a first film, but he’s surrounded by a handy team that contributed more than a little to his overall vision. Cinematographer Dick Pope, editor William Goldenberg, and co-writer Johnathan McClain all come together to help create a thrilling little gangster movie that manages to contribute something fresh to a worn-out genre. It’s a tightly paced little film, one that trots along and shows its steps in a way that isn’t unlike Burling’s own suitmaking procedure (which he claims takes over 200 precise steps, a process that will make a gorgeous but imperfect final product).
There’s not much more to say. The film can seem to meander at points, but the moments of brightness draw you back in immediately with such bravado that you forget you ever thought anything less than grandeur of The Outfit. It’s charming, sweet, and sort of frightening in a way that works well. Not a wildly impressive first outing from Moore, but definitely a delightful one that will be revisited time and again in ages to come.
The Outfit is currently playing in theatres.