Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Jake Gyllenhaal
NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (2016). Director: Tom Ford.

Unhappily re-married Susan (Amy Adams), who works for an art gallery specializing in "junk," hears from her first husband, Ed (Jake Gyllenhaal) when he sends her a copy of his novel, "Nocturnal Animals." As Susan reads the book we see scenes from it played out, depicting how the wife and daughter of "Tony" (also played by Gyllenhaal) are kidnapped off of a highway by three threatening predators, and the awful aftermath of this event. Interspersed with these sequences are flashbacks to Susan's relationship with Ed both before their marriage and after their divorce, as well as present-day sequences involving her second husband and her co-workers. Is Ed's successful novel and its violent plot meant to be his revenge on Susan for leaving him for a more ambitious fellow and aborting their child? Will you care by the time the movie is over? If you can get past the credit sequence, which shows the "junk" art Susan works with and which features jaw-droppingly repellent, obscenely obese naked women, you may discover a movie that is only sporadically interesting at best. What we have here is a perfectly average "thriller" that borrows elements from countless other movies, tricked up with the flashbacks and flash forwards and the device of most of it being a novel, an idea that is itself not that original. Too many modern-day movies eschew linear story-telling and go in for a low-key approach that is the antithesis of drama. When this ends, you may wonder "is that all there is?" Over-praised, as usual, by some critics, and foolishly called Hitchcockian (which it is not), by others, it serves to prove that Tom Ford is no Hitchcock, (For one thing Hitch would never have let that opening highway scene, which is initially tense and well-done, go on for so damn long). Amy Adams' [Julie and Julia] performance is nothing special; Gyllenhaal [Source Code] is much better, and there are several flavorful supporting performances, especially from Michael Shannon [Man of Steel] as a dying lawman. This probably worked better on the printed page than as a movie. I would call this style over substance, but it's not even that stylish despite director Ford's background as a fashion designer.

Verdict: Like the exhibits in Susan's art gallery, this is pure kitsch. **.


angelman66 said...

Thank you for your honest review. I did NOT like this movie one little bit...I appreciated the stylish production design but that's where it ended for me. What a waste of wonderful talent. Including Tom Ford, whose first picture I thought was quite good. This one was just hollow, all style and absolutely no substance.

Thought I was the only one!

William said...

I find that even when a film is vastly and ridiculously over-praised there will always be a few who can see through the hype and b.s. Too many people fall into the trap of liking something only because what seems like a majority of people/critics say it's great.

I've heard good things about Ford's first, "Single Man" and will look at it for my upcoming LGBT round up. It has to be better than this!