Nocturnal Animals

For those of you who live in the Triangle area, I saw this movie at the new Silverspot theater in Chapel Hill.  It’s really nice with roomy leather seats and lots of legroom.  They wouldn’t take cash and I had to pay with a credit card which seemed silly.  But the best thing is that it’s another venue for independent and foreign films in the area.

Onto the movie: Susan Morrow, played by Amy Adams, is a gallery owner.  She specializes in modern art, especially performance art, but doesn’t really have an eye for it.  Her gallery is failing.  As is her marriage to businessman Hutton Morrow, played by Armie Hammer.  Susan wanted to be an artist when she started college but gave up, giving the excuse that she was too cynical.  She also dumped her struggling novelist first husband Tony Hastings, played by Jake Gyllenhaal.  He didn’t have enough drive to succeed.

When Tony, after years of no contact sends her a copy of his latest novel, dedicated to her, she reluctantly starts it.  It is a dark graphic tale about revenge.  Edward Sheffield, also played by Jake Gyllenhaal is traveling at night in the wilds of west Texas with his wife and teenage daughter are killed.  They are ambushed by a gang of thugs led by Ray Marcus, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson.  They abduct the women and then rape and murder them.  When the perpetrators get off for lack of evidence, Edward joins with the lead detective on the case, Bobby Andes, played by Michael Shannon to pursue the matter in other ways.  It becomes a revenge tale.

The film bounces among Susan reading the book, the events in the book, and flashbacks to Tony and Susan’s marriage.

I think I’m missing something.  The opening credits are over shots of morbidly obese women dancing naked.  It’s one of Susan’s performance art things.  Ok, I thought, Tom Ford, the director is trying to push us out of our comfort zone and put together a provocative story that will make us squirm in our seats.  It didn’t work out that way.  All three stories are pretty straightforward, no real twists or anything.  There’s not enough to even make proper plots.  Plus Susan isn’t very likeable.  You don’t really get to know Tony.  And in the novel portions Edward isn’t characterized much.  The whole thing is unengaging.

Tom Ford comes from the world of fashion.  The segments that happen in the present are all very tastefully appointed but the novel parts and the parts in the past have sordid and ugly backdrops and clothes.  He’s probably making some kind of point here but I can’t imagine what.  But at the very least if you watch a lot of HGTV you can appreciate the luxurious finishes and open concept floor plan in Amy Adams’s Hollywood Hills house.

There is also a streak of misogyny in the film that’s very troubling.

I’d stay away from this one.


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