Monday, October 2, 2017

Nocturnal Animals (2016) Life's A Bitch And Then You Die

Directed by Tom Ford, written by Tom Ford based on a novel by Austin Wright (novel). The cinematography is by Seamus McGarvey, music was by Abel Korzeniowski.

The film stars Amy Adams (American Hustle (2013)), Jake Gyllenhaal (Zodiac (2007), Nightcrawler (2014)), Michael Shannon (The Iceman (2012), The Missing Person (2009)), Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Karl Glusman, and Robert Aramayo.

The gimmick in Nocturnal Animals is that the female lead Susan Morrow (Adams) who is a chi chi art gallery director in The City Of Angels with business on a downslide and her marriage on the rocks, receives a manuscript of his latest novel from her former fiance Edward Sheffield  (Gyllenhaal).  The novel is dedicated to Susan and it's title is "Nocturnal Animals" a pet name that Edward once gave gave to her.  As Susan begins to read the novel that story comes to life, a separate film entirely. So we have a film that jumps back and forth between Susan's soap opera life in L.A. and what we first assume is the story of her fictitious alter ego Laura Hastings (Fisher) as imagined by Edward.

So, Susan, reading the novel, imagines Tony Hastings (Laura's husband in the story), as Edward and Gyllenhaal plays the parts of both Tony in the novel and Edward in real life. Confused yet?

Susan Morrow (Adams)

Hutton Morrow (Hammer)

Tony Hastings (Gyllenhaal )

Bobby Andes (Shannon)
 Anyway the story of Tony, Susan, and India, their daughter, and their ill fated trip through West Texas is far, far, more interesting than the melodrama in L.A. and for me it just bogged down whenever the film segued back to the Left Coast.  The film could easily have lost it's tinseltown component and would have been a better film, but that whole cute "hook" is what probably got the script greenlighted in the first place. What do we know.

The films credit sequence is a Lynchesque freak show of Susan's latest installment, something I would entitle "Meat" reminiscent of an R. Crumb comix. Naked corpulent dancing women, each grotesquely succeeding the next in voluminosity.


The real film, for this viewer, is about the Hastings family and the brutal abduction, rape and murder of the women folk by three low life degenerate losers, Ray Marcus (Taylor-Johnson), Lou (Glusman) and Turk (Aramayo) who left their naked bodies on an abandoned sofa. Tony is sick with guilt because he feels that he didn't do enough to save his wife and daughter. The rest of the story is the tracking down a year later, of the three miscreants by dying lawman Bobby Andes (Shannon) and Tony.

West Texas

Shannon, who steals every scene, is the sort of a character that used to be termed, in Westerns and Film Noir, a "lunger" but Bobby Andes is not suffering from TB he's dying from lung cancer. There are some quasi humorous passages where Tony gets concerned about Bobby's coughing bouts, and his cigarette smoking.

Bobby Andes: I told you, I got lung cancer. It's metastasized.
Tony Hastings: But you smoke all the time.
Bobby Andes: Yeah, well, that's how it works.

When Ray is about to get off for lack of evidence Tony asks Bobby....

Tony Hastings: What we're gonna do?
Bobby Andes: It's a question of how serious you are about seeing justice done.

When they decide to do something about it everything goes deliciously Noirsville.


The film juxtaposes the subdued performances of Adams (quiet desperation) and Hammer (evasive deceit) acting "happy" in their Santa Monica Mountain mansion, against the powerfully outrageous, visceral, animalistic, swings of emotions from helplessness, to frustration, to resignation, to pity, to anger of Gyllenhaal and Andes.

What's is all about. (Author: o c from Poland from IMDb)

"Edward knew Susan feels guilty for what she's done. For a long time after she must have identified Tony's family harassers as the eponymous animals - her counterparts in the book - he kept her uncertain of their intentions. Will they hurt the family? Will they leave them alone? Finally, they killed them, as Susan destroyed her and Edward's relationship and aborted their child. Edward portrayed Tony's grief, letting Susan know: "Here's what you did to me". Then he expanded on Ray Marcus – a mindless psychopath – sending the message: "Here's what you are to me now". Finally, Tony kills Ray and dies himself, which means: "Writing this killed me, but at least now you're dead too."

If the film would have been solely about the West Texas portion and left out the L.A. soap opera it probably would have been the length of a tight Classic "B" Film Noir and better for it, but remember this is coming from the author of Noirsville. 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment