Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift: how many pop stars are there in “Argylle”?

Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift: how many pop stars are there in “Argylle”?

Does Dua Lipa want to become an actress or not? She is certainly not the first pop star to try, on the contrary. Decades before pop music stars reinvented themselves as entrepreneurs, stylists and influencers, the attempt to start an acting career parallel to his singing one it already seemed like the dividing line to separate the “singers and that’s it” from those who aspire to the title of queen of pop.

Cher, Madonna, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and obviously Lady Gaga: there are those who have tried for fun and those who try seriously and repeatedly, there are those who have chased an Oscar for years, those who have grabbed it and those instead she settled for an ironic cameo in the role of herself, just to reiterate her excessive media power, her brilliance in the audiovisual field.

Appearing at the cinema to measure your media power: keep this starting point in mind to understand “Argyle”, in cinemas today and soon on AppleTv+.

Dua Lipa in “Argylle”

As soon as he achieved the status of a full-blown global pop star (after trying for a few years with mixed success), Dua Lipa dove into her cinematic adventure. She didn’t just pull “Dance the Night” out of the hat at Greta Gerwig’s request to give Barbie a hit with an 80s dance sound. In her head, the singer declared, she was already at the next phase (sorry, era), at the more rocking sound of “Houdini”. However, you don’t say no to a film like “Barbie”, to a director like Greta Gerwig, even if your colleague Billie Eilish ends up chasing an Oscar and not you.

Dua Lipa didn’t even say no to the request to join the cast of the film about the Mattel doll. In fact, he appears in the symbolic film of 2023 in role of mermaid Barbie, the only one capable of splashing in the plasterboard waves alongside her little mermaid John Cena. An ironic role which however extends just a few strokes further than luxury wig cameo.

“Argyle” instead, on paper, this should be his big break. Matthew Vaughn’s film is a spy story that intersects with a romantic comedy and an action film that is very “meta” compared to the genre itself. An inexhaustible trend of recent years, based on embracing a genre or a trend making the public constantly understand that it is done with an analytical gaze and ironic detachment, ending up placing themselves halfway between the story being told and the audience watching it, often turning towards those in the room and commenting, more or less explicitly, on what happens in the film.

Ironic and self-deprecating, “Argylle” features Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), a writer of spy novels who begins to be attacked by hitmen and spies from around the world. Everyone wants to kill her because what she writes in her books ends up coming true in reality.

Dua Lipa plays Lagrange, Argylle’s very sensual antagonist, the heroic spy of the moment, fruit of Elly’s imagination, embodied by the statuesque Henry Cavill. We see her in the promotional trailer of the film, wrapped in a golden dress with a dizzying slit, sensual and beautiful, who partly flirts with Argylle and partly tries to have him killed. It looks like a (passed) Bond Girl audition, thanks to the fact that Cavill appears even more rigid and plastered than usual, squeezed as he is in a mandarin jacket and in a very over the top role.

It’s not just Dua Lipa who is looking in the direction of Prime Video, which currently holds the rights to the James Bond saga, currently on hiatus and looking for its new 007. The first half hour of “Argylle” is the email attachment Vaughn’s self-nomination to direct the next 007 film.

In its 139 minutes of running time, the film has time to become much, much more: a caricature of Bond and spy films, an action title with chases and shootouts poorly recreated by special effects, a romantic comedy (not at case it will arrive in theaters on Valentine’s Day). “Argylle” is also the first film of unforgivable technical and visual ugliness ever produced by Apple Original, a caciaronata proud of it and, in fact, a film that it uses the pop star in its cast very cleverly. Without even making her sing.

From here on I will proceed by allusions, so as not to reveal too much about a film which has among its strong points that of bringing together an endless series of twists and turns, often just for the fun of it.
At a certain point, Dua Lipa’s gold dress with a vertiginous slit comes back on stage, along with the sensual “helicopter move” on the dance floor. Dua Lipa isn’t the one wearing it though, but that’s exactly the point. Without ever even making it explicit. Buttthew Vaughn deconstructs a certain way of looking at the spy story genre, where efficiency and infallibility are made explicit by the superhuman ability of the protagonists to adhere to specific, very restrictive aesthetic canons.

In deciding who plays who (see Sam Rockwell’s character), Vaughn .reveals a love for the genre tout-court that extends beyond James Bond, who is no coincidence that he is the pop star of spies, impossibly beautiful, infallible and unrealistic.

It is Rockwell’s character who quotes the author John Le Carrè, who says that “the perfect spy is the one who doesn’t attract attention”, who proposes a model of masculinity irresistible in the long term. Rockwell is not Cavill in appearance, but he knows how to prove himself as the perfect partner, both at work and otherwise. The same thing he can say about Argylle, or rather the character of whom Argylle is the proxy, the avatar. It’s difficult to go further than that without giving away spoilers, so I’ll just say that Dua Lipa’s role in the film is as brilliant as it is thankless for how it makes the viewer notice what is behind the smooth and perfect appearance of Bond Girls, pop stars, artists whose talent must manifest itself in specific physical expressions.

Ariana Debose in “Argylle”

“Argylle” would be a beautiful film if it were content to do this, instead it does a thousand other things, often really badly. A film that pokes fun at the stereotypes of spy storieshe writes the most stereotyped and banal possible of the characters that the writer creates. Every single, stereotyped response of Elly in meetings with readers is enough to leave scratches in the armrests of the chair due to irritation. A film that is also forced to deny itself in its game of mirrors due to this need to always bring up other films, other characters, other franchises.

So much so that he risks not highlighting the tricks he has up his sleeve, starting with gorgeous Ariana DeBose. The Oscar-winning actress and singer has a small role in the film, but it is she who sings the irresistible “Electric Energy” with Boy George is “Get Up and Start Again”the song over the closing credits.

Vaughn had asked her for a Bond piece and she wanted to “live her Adele dream, bring out her Skyfall”. Don’t blame DeBose, but the real hit here is the one produced by Stuart Price, written by Boy George with Gary Barlow, George Alan O’Dowd, Lorne Balfe and Matthew Vaughn.

Taylor Swift in “Argylle”

Could Taylor Swift be missing from this whirlwind of pop, cinema and glamour? In theory yes, given that does not officially appear among those who worked on the film, has no credit for it, yet among his fans there is great anticipation for the film, because there is this belief that Swift has something to do with it. Indeed: some believe that the queen of pop is indeed the Wizard of Oz of the entire operation and Vaughn a sort of wingman.

In fact, it seems to be the best promotional vehicle for “Argylle”. the conspiracy theory that has been circulating on social media in recent weeks according to which the real writer of the novels protagonists of the film is the most popular, celebrated and busy pop star on the planet. Where she found the time to devote herself to writing in the midst of a global tour as demanding as the one she has faced in recent months remains the real mystery to be revealed. However, there are enough allusions, enough coincidences to keep the debate alive.

The official facts are these. Matthew Vaughn spoke of a mysterious series of novels that have not yet seen the light of day, of which Apple would have secured the rights for an abnormal sum (it is said to be 200 million dollars). His “Argylle” would be based on a hypothetical fourth volume of the saga, whose incipit will see the light in bookstores in February 2024.

The most credible hypothesis is that Vaughn works on a larger project that is so “meta” that it can be referenced a series of books written ex post and actually published in bookstores and cited in the film. Just find a good ghost writer and you’re done. It’s not even an innovative strategy: if you look carefully, you’ll find Jessica Fletcher’s novels in some stalls. The game here is to keep the identity of those who write Argylle’s novels hidden, to maintain the parallel between the reality of the film and actual reality.

If the adorable clumsy writer of your film is so inspired by the aesthetics and mythology of Taylor Swift that she leads fans to build a conspiracy theory and set up a sort of parallel, pervasive and free promotional campaign, well, so much so. Better. Taylor Swift may be the first pop star to help launch a movie without even being in it: a stunt that currently only she seems to be able to really pull off.