Nocturnal Animals Film Reviews
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By Richard von Busack December 12, 2016
Watching Nocturnal Animals is essentially like watching a Charles Bronson retrospective in a plush, red velvet-wrapped salon during some minor European city's film festival. The trappings give aesthetic importance to what's going on up front, culturally validating something that isn't all that different from a Golan and Globus rape-revenge shocker. Celebrities turn up (including Michael Sheen and Laura Linney) to validate the significance of what we're watching. We're presumed to find the framing by photographer-turned-director-turned-back-to-photographer Tom Ford positively Lynchian; we're meant to be captives on rides on lost highways. But there's only one David Lynch, and imitating him is a sucker's game.
Amy Adams is Susan, a woman between two marriages, as it were: one to a blue chip art dealer (Armie Hammer) who has had enough of her, the other to a failed novelist named Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) whom she sloughed off for his lack of ambition.
This bird in a gilded cage—or rather, this bird in a $5 million concrete modernist bunker with an apparently motor-oil filled swimming pool out back—receives Sheffield's new novel in galley form. It's a potboiler's potboiler about a remote Texas road, a trio of rapacious hillbillies, and an indomitable lawman (Michael Shannon) named Andes, just like the mountains, who goes beyond the law to track down the criminals.
Is Susan's obsession with the book, and her numbness to everything else, due to the fact that she was a victim in the real version of the fictionalized story Sheffield unfolds?
Answer is: who cares? Under layers of makeup that a Japanese geisha might protest, Adams and her cohorts live a life of blood-freezing affluence. Their clothes are more alive than they are. Ford's cloudscapes—equal, if perhaps surpassing, the fraught cumuluS in Michael Mann's films—hover ominously. A shot of L.A. palm trees in a dirty mist makes them look like they're smoldering. The most interesting scenes in this movie have no humans in them.
No matter how insufferably gussied, Nocturnal Animals is standard rape-revenge. Ford doesn't miss a trick, from long, long cat-and-mousing by hillbillies to cornered rapist telling the avenger that he doesn't have the guts to pull the trigger.
A little touch of abortion-remorse is the cherry on this cupcake. Still, Shannon is so damned good and dirty that he keeps the film from dying of its own fanciness.
By iheardthatmoviewas January 30, 2017
We live in a country where our current presidential candidates fail to compare to our current president. We live in a country where minorities have been a subject to police brutality. We live in a country where you must enter debt by taking out a student loan and you are still not guaranteed a successful future. Are you uncomfortable yet? Comfortability won't be found here or in fashion designer turned director Tom Ford's second featured film Nocturnal Animals. The director forces you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable and the result is the most beautiful disturbingly gripping films of 2016.
> From writer/director Tom Ford comes a haunting romantic thriller of shocking intimacy and gripping tension that explores the thin lines between love and cruelty, and revenge and redemption. Academy Award nominees Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star as a divorced couple discovering dark truths about each other and themselves in NOCTURNAL ANIMALS.
Director Tom Ford starts the film with a close up of a handful of naked older white females dancing nakedly with bodies society would be disturbed by. Ford does not focuses on just one part of the body but every piece of fat, extra skin, crease, scar, and stretch mark to really push your comfortability. No, Ford is not going for shock value, especially not so early in the film because there will be plenty time for that, but he is being nice of enough to give the audience a disclaimer. A disclaimer that nothing will be more comfortable than the opening sequence and if you couldn't handle that then Nocturnal Animals is going to be one hell of a trip for you. Heck, regardless, Nocturnal Animals is one hell of a trip.
Nocturnal Animals itself contains a double narrative strand which consists of Susan's real life and her bringing the book of her ex-husband to life. Ford does not implement a voiceover to let you know that you are now in the world of the book yet he makes you feel that you are watching another film. Ford pulls off a difficult task in making the audience care about both narratives and you want to believe that both are fictional then the uncomfortability levels begin to raise once again as you are forced to remember that one is indeed reality. Tony & Susan, the 1993 novel that the films was adapted from, unfolds how intimate the act of reading could be as an author could tap into the reader's thoughts, feelings and experience. Tom Ford pulls this same feat but just with the act of watching a film.
With his first job being a fashion designer, one would only assume to be blown away by the visuals Tom Ford would create. This is true as various scenes of LA and west Texas are beyond stunning but no one would expect the clash of visuals Ford would create with LA and west Texas. The transition from super cool and grotesque LA to a brutal, violent and revengeful west Texas will once again raise your uncomfortability levels.
After all, this is a revenge film. We learn throughout the film that Susan, who comes from a wealthy family, falls in love with an inspiring author in Jake Gyllenhaal's Tony but would eventually go on to break his art in three different way. First, by telling him to take a step back from his dream of being an author. Secondly, aborting his child. Then, if the first two wasn't enough, she lives him for the handsome and dashing Armie Hammer's Hutton. Susan goes on to live the perfect life with Hutton and 20 years after her divorce with Tony, he decides to quietly place a novel about revenge in her mailbox. We feel Susan's chills as she reads the novel and without ever needing to say a word to her, Susan's perfect little world becomes to crumble
Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams give us exactly what we expect from them. Aaron Taylor-Johnson offers a spine-chilling performance as Ray Marcus and Michael Shannon is fantastic as Bobby Andes. Tom Ford finally takes off his fashion designer hat and puts his fully-fledged director hat on as that was his approach with this film and two narratives. Tom Ford sustains the point that he is not a fashion designer turned director but a full-fledged director as a lesser director would have totally botched this film.