Quick Hit: Beautiful filming and terrific acting create a story worth multiple viewings.
Do you dream, Dear Readers? I rarely do anymore (when I’m unconscious anyway), with the rare ones brought on by periods of stress and junk food. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy films so much, particularly thrillers. It gives you the visceral experience of a dream without having to rely on your subconscious mind to serve one up that you actually remember.
Which, brings me to today’s film Nocturnal Animals. If I’ve ever watched a movie that exhibits a more dream-like (as well as nightmarish) quality, I’m not currently remembering it. The film eases through a trifecta of stories, sliding backwards and forwards in time with ease, as well as dipping into a novel’s narrative. Every reader in the world knows the feeling of being completely absorbed by the story in a book, and especially the feeling of being so surprised by what you read that it actually draws you out of the book and into life, feeling your heart beating ferociously as you arm sweat from your brow.
That experience is heightened all the more by the feeling of watching Amy Adams’s face. We can see so much in her eyes throughout this film – the heightened fatality of the highlife in LA as an artist (this film gleefully pokes fun at said artisans), the hope of a life renewed, and, perhaps most importantly the feel of a woman lost in thoughts of the past. The film radiates around Susan (Adams) as she reads a novel sent to her by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). It’s funny, because she left him because he wouldn’t give up this author thing, and now he has dedicated this novel to her.
In a perfect set of casting, the main character in the novel is played by Gyllenhaal himself, which instantly brings to mind comparisons regarding where the story is going. This is only heightened by the fact that Isla Fisher (ever the Amy Adams stand-in, and often terrific) plays his wife. Susan’s daughter is a young red-headed teen, and surprise, the young teenage daughter is also a young red-headed teen. It’s with this that a dark picture begins to form, because this happy family is assaulted by a group of ruffians (led by the amazing Aaron Taylor-Johnson in the role of a despicable man) who run the family off the road and then kidnap the women. This leaves Tony (Gyllenhaal) alone to find his way to help, and leads to questions of manhood that abound throughout the story, paralleled in the story of Susan and Edward.
I also have to mention Michael Shannon who plays the law officer assigned to Tony’s case. Always seemingly to have fun in odd and different roles, Shannon is again terrific here. He imbues a life into the story of manhood that is obvious and fresh, not to mention providing several humorous bits. But he also stands out in some serious monologues: in particular, the one in the diner will probably be his clip when announced for his Supporting Actor nomination.
The story is further accented by the beautiful way it is shot. Everything in LA is lush and artificial (all the way to the way that Ms. Adams is represented), and it is all shot with a blueish filter (except when Susan is in the art gallery which allows piercing fluorescents to set the mood). All the colors within the novel are warm, which doesn’t seem out of place since it takes place in the desert.
To go further, I absolutely loved all the acting in this movie. I think that the only reason Ms. Adams and Mr. Gyllenhaal are being rewarded for their stellar performances is simply the fact that this movie is so dark in the way it is presented. The movie does end on a less thrilling note than the rest, but it’s not enough to dissuade me from giving this film a solid “A”. I can’t wait to watch this again.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"