Nocturnal Animals (2016) Review

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Directed by Tom Ford

Based on Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
An art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

My Opinion:

Well! This movie was certainly… interesting? I love Amy Adams but sci-fi is my type of thing so Arrival is the only one I’d planned on going to see (it’s EXCELLENT, by the way – I’m posting my review tomorrow). Hubby saw Nocturnal Animals then was weirdly insistent on me seeing it too while being cryptic as to if it would actually be worth my time. Now I understand: This is one of those movies you want other people to see so you can talk about it & discuss your theories on the meaning of the symbolism and the different characters’ actions & intentions and, umm……. Okay – This is one of those movies you want other people to see so they can maybe tell you what the f*^k is going on. 😉

Was Nocturnal Animals worth my time? Yes. It’s easily in my top ten 2016 movie releases now & I’d be surprised if it’s not still there by December 31st. But it’s a difficult watch and I can’t exactly say I had a “fun time” watching it. I highly doubt I’ll ever watch it again and, quite frankly, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to. It’s intensely disturbing and I was kind of glad when it finished. Am I selling this one to you yet?! Ha! I’m pretty sure I’ll never be asked to contribute a quote for a movie’s poster.

I’m not trying to dissuade anyone from seeing this. In fact, I very highly recommend it. However, I’d only recommend it to a small selection of people who I think would appreciate it, like several of my fellow movie bloggers who may be reading this. You just need to be warned of what you’re getting into if you watch Nocturnal Animals: I guarantee you’ll either love this or you’ll think it’s the most pretentiously boring piece of shit you’ve seen in a long time. There’s my movie poster quote for this!

I always say this but I turn to movies for escapism, which is probably why I go for sci-fi & fantasy and never for gritty realism. I don’t like the ugliness in this world so I don’t enjoy things like true crime dramas, serial killer movies, etc. I say that because this movie is partly “gritty crime drama”. Well, it is yet it isn’t… Just be warned that these parts of the film contain violence more extreme than I’d been expecting (hubby – you could’ve warned me, dude!). The gritty parts are necessary, though, as you start to realize the full meaning behind them so I managed to muddle through despite finding these scenes very uncomfortable.

I’ll try to stay as spoiler-free as possible with this review but I think it’s safe to say that this movie is a story within a story (the book written by the ex-husband of Amy Adams, which she reads throughout the movie). So we go back and forth between Adams & the story in the book which, on the surface, is nothing more than a standard pulpy crime drama. But it IS something much more than that & only Adams and her ex-husband (and hopefully the film’s audience) will be aware of that.

I often don’t go for the “story within a story” thing (er, unless it’s The Princess Bride… Best. Movie. Ever.) but I was completely engrossed every time the movie went back to the book’s crime drama story. Yes, the story feels like formulaic “pulp” (probably why the ex-husband, Jake Gyllenhaal, apparently never made it big as an author) yet it’s so intense & so brilliantly acted that you’re drawn into this story far more than the real-life story of Adams and her superficial art gallery world. But that’s the whole point: Unlike Adams’ real-life extravagant lifestyle, the book’s “fictional” world feels far more real & is full of a raw emotion that I’ve rarely seen captured so well on screen. Honestly, I found these scenes so profoundly & disturbingly moving that credit must be given to everyone involved in their making whether you like the movie or not. Though extremely upsetting, I found this film to be one of the most immersive movie experiences I’ve had since seeing Room, although the emotional effect was the exact opposite (Room filled me with pure joy).

As always, Adams is very good with an understated performance but it’s Gyllenhaal who really shines in what is actually the far more important role. I’ve never been a big fan of his and, though I’ve seen him in plenty of highly regarded roles, I think this is the film that has finally made me appreciate him as an actor. I also loved Michael Shannon in quite a small role as the sheriff in the book’s story. Again, he’s someone highly regarded yet I’ve paid him little attention so, for any of his fans reading this, this movie is worth you checking out just for his role. I can’t guarantee you’ll like the actual movie but he’s fantastic.

I know this is only fashion designer Tom Ford’s second film and I’ve not seen A Single Man but I definitely want to see more from him after this. I think there’s some true brilliance in this film that will unfortunately be too casually regarded as pretentious. I can totally understand why it would be labelled as such, though, as it initially appears that way with beautifully artistic shots & with rich art world snobs moaning about their superficial problems. But the movie itself is the same as book’s story within the film: On the surface it’s superficial & formulaic but deep down it’s an allegorical tale. Wait… The movie is an allegory of itself! No. Um… The book in the movie is an allegory of the real life story in the movie while the movie itself is an allegory of… Something! Maybe. I just like throwing the word “allegory” around. Trust me, there’s some crazy allegorical shit going on here. I’m sure of it!

Is the film itself as deep as its story within a story? I don’t know. My mind is still working on that but I like that I’m still thinking about this movie days after watching it. That’s what I consider true art and only a handful of movies play on my mind for days afterwards. Nocturnal Animals is definitely not for everyone but, if you’re someone who wants something more than just pure entertainment, you may be the type to find this movie an intensely rewarding experience. Or you may just be pretentious. 😉

My Rating: 8/10

**To all the pretentious snobs like me who’ve seen this movie, feel free to discuss it with me in the comments! Full-on spoilers allowed, so avoid reading the comments if you’ve not yet seen this – I think it’s not yet out in America? I want to talk about this one. I want to discuss the parallels in the movie’s story & movie book’s story. The meaning of some of the imagery. The overall meaning of the movie: is it deep like the film’s book or superficial like the film’s real-world. What was with all the naked butts?!? The real life book this is based on (as opposed to the book within the movie) – has anyone read it? Should I dye my hair the same color as Amy Adams in the hope that I’ll look exactly like her? Discuss! 🙂

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