Nightmare Alley (2021)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Based on Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Ron Perlman, Mary Steenburgen, David Strathairn
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A grifter working his way up from low-ranking carnival worker to lauded psychic medium matches wits with a psychiatrist bent on exposing him.
Ugh. Okay, this is going to be a sucky review because I have very little to say about this movie. Well, all my reviews are sucky. So this will be more sucky than usual!
Man, this film was a drag. Guillermo del Toro’s output is kind of all over the place, though. I like some films, like Pan’s Labyrinth (brilliant) and The Shape Of Water. But other films of his are a bit meh. As always, though, I like the style of his movies & this one also has his great signature look to it. So, yay, it looked very pretty. But that didn’t make the movie any less boring. Nightmare Alley ended up like Crimson Peak: A great-looking but dull film. And I think I enjoyed Crimson Peak much more of these two.
How did he manage to make a movie set in an old-school carnival so boring?!? I think we just didn’t get enough of the carnival setting. Disappointingly, that’s only really at the start of the film. I LOVE a carnival/circus setting for movies & books! Freaks is very much a favorite film of mine & I’ve always found that whole lifestyle fascinating. So, when they moved away from that in this film, I really lost interest with the plot which wasn’t very compelling & certainly didn’t need to be dragged out for two & a half hours. Also, not to be rude but I’ve just never really been a fan of Bradley Cooper & he felt wrong for this role. I did think he was very good in A Star Is Born but he just felt out of place here, especially in scenes with Cate Blanchett. I think Blanchett has that true old Hollywood “star quality” so she does tend to outshine everyone in scenes with her but it was even more obvious with Cooper as he just doesn’t have that sort of “presence” at all. Which isn’t good when he’s the main character…
Also, I don’t mind this so much but the hubby complained about the amount of big name stars in this. I do agree it can throw you out of some movies, though, especially fantasies or ones that are meant to be mysterious. It just felt unnecessary to stick so many well known people in even the smaller roles here. Is that what helped it to get a Best Picture nomination? Probably! The Academy does have its favorites. Blanchett is certainly a favorite & they do seem to like del Toro. Hey – at least Nightmare Alley was maybe a little less boring than The Power Of The Dog. Maybe. It’s close.
I had more to say about this than I expected! I feel I’ve been way too harsh because, let’s face it, I’ve never made a movie & del Toro is obviously a good filmmaker. So I’ll end with some positives:
As already mentioned, this movie looks great. I also liked all the performances from the women: Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette (was sad her role was so small) & Rooney Mara. Hubby thinks I have a big girl crush on Rooney Mara. I think I kind of do but don’t know why as I don’t normally go for that tiny waif thing. She has lovely eyes but I think I’m more into Blanchett because she’s always so “sexy cool”. Yes, I liked seeing the two of them in this together briefly after they played lovers in Carol. Yes, I liked Carol and, yes, it kind of made me wonder what I see in men. And I think I just spent too long thinking about Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara so the hubby is gonna read this and think I’m in love with them. Oh, and I also learned something new about old carnivals! I can’t believe I’d never heard of a geek show since I always watch anything to do with carnivals. Anyway, here’s a brief explanation of a geek show from Wikipedia: “The billed performer’s act consisted of a single geek, who stood in center ring to chase live chickens. It ended with the performer biting the chickens’ heads off and swallowing them.” Gross. It sounds like the geeks were treated horribly so it’s a good thing the “geek shows” & the “freak shows” disappeared. It was such a different world back then. (But I did like the thing in the jar in Nightmare Alley as it reminded me of a great episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour called The Jar. Loved that show as a kid!)
Here, I’ll be fairly nice with my rating as it obviously must be a good film since it’s an Oscar nominee?!?
My Rating: 6.5/10