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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IMDB Top 250 Challenge – Movie #18 – Mary And Max (2009) Review

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Mary And Max – IMDB Rank #183

Watched 7/6/13

Directed by Adam Elliot

Starring Voice Actors:
Bethany Whitmore
Toni Collette
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Eric Bana
Barry Humphries

Running time: 90 minutes

Country: Australia

Plot Synopsis:

This story follows the friendship between a lonely 8-year-old Australian girl named Mary and a 44-year-old New Yorker with many mental problems named Max. Their friendship starts in 1976, when a very lonely and neglected Mary decides to write a letter to someone in New York and chooses Max at random from a telephone directory.

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My Opinion:

I hated this. Absolutely hated it. That is all. Review over. :-p

Okay… I’ll try to say a bit more. To be honest, I don’t know why I hated this so much but the whole thing just rubbed me up the wrong way. I can see it has some merit and a lot of this is probably just me being awkward as it’s obviously liked by enough people to have been voted into the IMDB Top 250. It does NOT deserve to be in a list alongside the “all-time greatest movies”, though.

I wouldn’t say that I don’t like a bit of black humor so I had no problem with that. But the whole thing was SO depressing. Every single character in this, other than Mary as a young girl, is completely unlikeable and some are downright hateful & horrible. As a young girl, Mary is so sweet. But she’s very lonely thanks to very neglectful parents (especially her alcoholic mother). The kids at school are horribly mean to her because she has a big birthmark on her head. She’s such a nice girl and I just couldn’t stand seeing this poor little girl being neglected and so in desperate need of a friend.

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Then Max comes along and they have a great but oftentimes troubled pen-pal relationship due to Max’s many different issues (anxiety attacks, overeating, depression, and Asperger syndrome). He will sometimes get mad at Mary and she won’t hear from him for ages, which really hurts her. Her life is full of ups and downs (mostly downs!) and, as to pretty much be expected, she starts to descend into her own depression… Yada Yada. I won’t say whether or not this movie at least has a happy ending but who cares anyway – you’ll be lucky to not be severely depressed yourself by the time you make it to the end of this.

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Um. Okay – I’ll say a couple good things. I liked that Mary’s world is sepia & Max’s is black & white. And there are, believe it or not, some quite funny things in this (I was just too depressed to give a shit). These were mostly things said by Mary or Max – I do admit that a lot of their correspondence was cleverly written and sometimes very funny. But this is one of those movies that’s too “aware” of its own cleverness. That sort of thing always gets on my tits. This film is pretentious. Oops – I was trying to say good things, wasn’t I… Mary. Mary as a girl. The only good thing, really.

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Oh! And here’s another thing I hated probably more than anything else – this movie has now ruined for me a song that I loved: Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Perpetuum Mobile. And it not only used the song once, it kept using it over and over and over again. The movie clubs the viewer over the head with this song. Annoying. Dammit – I can’t hear that song now without thinking of this movie!

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Anyway – I suppose this film is making some sort of point about mental illness that maybe I missed. Maybe the point is how it can ruin people’s lives through no fault of their own. Because the lives in this film are certainly not happy ones. Here’s a list from Wikipedia of some of the themes covered in this film:

Childhood neglect, friendship, the obscurity of life, teasing, loneliness, autism (Asperger syndrome in particular), obesity, depression and anxiety.

They forgot several things as well – such as agoraphobia, kleptomania, and alcoholism.

Yeah. Fun stuff indeed. 😉

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Summary:

I hated this movie.

My Rating: 4/10

Now listen to this awesome song then never watch Mary And Max because it will destroy the song for you: