Nocturnal Animals (2016)
I don’t know the next thing about paintings, fashion shows or art galas, so I can only pretend to know the world director Tom Ford comes from. But I get the sense I’m supposed to take some time to appreciate “Nocturnal Animals.”
You know how some people smell wine before they drink it? I don’t do that, but the wine still tastes pretty good most of the time. So if you squirm in your seat a bit while you wait for Amy Adams to put her damn glasses on and dig into her ex-husband’s novel, don’t feel bad.
It gets going. As Adams gets sucked into the novel, Ford weaves her narrative into his and our lives into her’s. You need to supply a bit of the emotional labor here, and that’s a weak point of the film, but if you’re willing to do it you’ll be rewarded.
“Nocturnal Animals” offers a nifty little twist at the end that I certainly won’t spoil, but it again displays Jake Gyllenhaal as one of the best male actors in the business. Michael Shannon is unlike himself in the best way possible and Aaron Taylor-Johnson continues to transform himself — he’s not Kick-Ass anymore.
If there’s another beef to be had it’s that Adams is largely wasted as the audience’s portal. She does fine with limited material, but frankly anyone could have played her role. She looks shocked, distressed and desperately unhappy but that’s all just window dressing. Ford, though he’s only two movies deep, has a problem with women characters. That’s something to work on.
What Ford does in spades, just as he did in his debut feature, “A Single Man,” is art direction. “Nocturnal Animals” is breathtakingly beautiful both in Adams’ mythically gorgeous (and rainy) Los Angeles and Gyllenhaal’s aptly hellacious West Texas. Ford frames every shot with care I wish he spared for some of his characters.
Women are beaten, raped, murdered and suffer both emotional and psychological trauma all in fewer than two hours. It’s a drama and a thriller so this isn’t exactly uncharted territory, of course, but that’s something you should keep in mind if you’re interested in checking the movie out.
What may be most striking about “Nocturnal Animals” is that it remains remarkably more uplifting than Ford’s debut feature. Perhaps in his third effort, Ford will give a woman character something to do — other than die, of course.
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