first_imgStay on target Well, then. Here’s a movie that’s not really all that bad but I can’t for the life of me think of any reason anyone would actually want to watch it.Nocturnal Animals is well acted, it looks handsome, it has solid set design and cinematography and it’s filled with great actors (and also Armie Hammer), but there’s not really much of a point to it despite being about as pretentious as a major release gets these days. Nobody is really playing that far outside their general wheelhouse, there aren’t any big setpiece moments you just have to rush out and see, and when the show-offy multi-track narrative at long last gets where it’s going you get your answers – but you also get a big imposing pile of “That was fucking IT!?”In any case: The technical main character is Amy Adams as a snobby upscale Los Angeles ice-queen type whose art gallery business is about to go bust along with her effectively loveless marriage. Left alone for a weekend while her similarly inhuman husband (Hammer, essentially reprising his “Winklevii” characterization from The Social Network) heads off “on business;” she finds herself the recipient of a package from Jake Gyllenhaal as her estranged first husband containing the manuscript of a soon-to-be-published novel that he’s dedicated to her and that he’d like her to read.And read it she does – that’s pretty much her role in the movie: She reads it in bed, she reads it on the couch, sometimes she takes a break… and then goes back to reading. By now all of the “I’d pay to watch Amy Adams read ____” jokes have been made, but suffice it to say that in practice it’s… not exactly a riveting spectacle, let’s it that way. She does manage to get a paper cut from opening the package because that’s about the level of cheesy on-the-nose symbolism we’re dealing with here.In any case: While she’s reading we get to see the story within the book dramatized for us by a different set of actors, save for Gyllenhaal who portrays his author character’s own obvious self-insert protagonist because isn’t that clever? Said story is a lurid, ultra-grim crime-thriller about a milquetoast guy who goes looking for revenge after he and his family are savagely assaulted by a vicious gang of redneck carjackers while driving through the middle of nowhere; eventually teaming up Michael Shannon as an old-school hardass detective to take the law into their own hands. The “joke,” you see, is that where the real-world part of the story is artsy and cold and sterile, the fictional part is bloody, sweaty, gritty and visceral – again: Clever.Anyway, once this has gone on for awhile, we start to get glimpses of a third story track when the super-dark manuscript starts to disturb her so much that she begins having sad flashbacks to how their relationship began and eventually fell apart in the first place – which, of course, “rhymes” with events of the book in arch yet vague and not terribly satisfactory ways: We “get” where the conceit is going pretty much right away i.e. we’ll eventually get some kind of denouement and go “Oh that’s why he was compelled to write such a dark book!” But the ultimate reveal (which, if you’ve seen more than one “rich people reflect on their regrets” movie like this, you’ll see coming a mile out) lands more as a case of “Oh.. okay, then;” while the big present-day finish it turns out we’ve been building to with all this enigmatic innuendo and narrative gamesmanship is a resounding… well, like I said before: “That was fucking IT!?” Sure, we get the point – it’s just not very worth getting when all’s said and done.It’s not that Nocturnal Animals is bad, there’s just not much to recommend about it. Director Tom Ford started out as an internationally renowned fashion designer, and as you’d expect he delivers an impeccably handsome-looking feature that has about as much recognizable humanity in it as the vaguely predatory glassy stare of your average runway model – which is to say not very much, perhaps deliberately so. This cold-fish technician approach worked out fine for his debut feature, A Single Man, as it was a long form study of repression and self-denial; but this meant to be a depiction of psychological violence being inflicted by way of literary allusion, and it just doesn’t have the bite it’s clearly meant to.The best parts here are the “fake story” from the book, and that’s mainly because you’ve got Michael Shannon on hand to radiate charisma and carry everybody else through… and even then, at times, you get the sense that these sequences are intended in part as a send-up of grief-porn pulp page-turners rather than their perceived naturalism. In the end, it’s simply too glum to be enjoyable and too thin to be worth the trouble. MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ last_img read more

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