Nocturnal Animals is a flick I knew nothing about weeks ago. I never heard of it before so when the press screening invite arrived in my inbox it was very much a surprise to me. I saw that Amy Adams was in it and decided to give the trailer a spin. She has been in everything else this year (BvS, Arrival) so why shouldn’t I continue rolling with her like we’re besties. The theatrical trailer looked very promising and rather Texan (in reference to the cowboy hats and scenery). However, what sealed the deal was the fact that Oblivion‘s Vika (Andrea Riseborough) is also in it. She’s one of my favorites so I signed up without anymore knowledge than that! Therefore I decided to give it a try and the next six paragraphs you’ll spend with me below sums up exactly how my time was with Amy and the rest of the star studded cast of Nocturnal Animals.
Nocturnal Animals is a 2016 American psychological thriller film written, co-produced and directed by Tom Ford (yes the American fashion designer). The movie is based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright. I mentioned up above about the star studded cast so let’s take a closer look at the name comprising the ensemble. They consist of Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough and Michael Sheen. That’s a lot of big names under one roof! It was selected to compete for the Golden Lion at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. Now that we have that out of the way let’s talk about the dangerous tale of a broken-hearted ex-husband who unleashes his vengeance decades later through the twisted tale in his story (novel).
We start out with Susan (Adams), a successful Los Angeles art-gallery owner, whose idyllic life is spoiled by the constant traveling of her handsome second husband (Hammer). While he is away, she is a bit disturbed by the arrival of a proof manuscript (the novel I was referring to) written by her first husband (Gyllenhaal), who she has not seen in 19 years. The novel depicts the story of a husband/father whose trip with his family traveling through West Texas turns into a living nightmare. Over night his life turns into shambles and he’s force to pick up the many shattered pieces to carry out his revenge. As Susan reads on further, it forces her to recollect her own past and all her regretful mistakes such as her first marriage, career, etc. The interesting thing here is pretty much what is written in print plays out in real life too from a certain point of view. I’ll leave it at that.
So every once in awhile a movie comes along that when you start to watch it you become so engrossed in you never want it to end. Reluctantly for me this happened twice to me this year with two films I never ever suspected to like, Hell or High Water and now Nocturnal Animals. Even the raved Neon Demon took multiple viewings to win me over, but if not for my head over heel loves for everything Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice this one would be my favorite motion picture of the year thus far. Take anything about it, the story, the performances, the cinematography, the style/fashion, the score, etc. and I’ll give you a million and one reasons why it excels. It’s a little bit of a modern day Hitchcok with a bit of Kubrick thrown in for good measure. You can definitely tell its a product of a fashion designer as I saw a lot of Neon Demon in it and I’m not even talking about the actress who coincidentally stars in both the films I’m making comparison to here either.
Let’s talk about the opening credits of Nocturnal Animals for a few moments. Holy hell I have never been more giddy and/or uncomfortable in my life sitting there next to my co-worker in the theater and some older woman who was driving me crazy with her nose blowing. It has been some time since I felt like that. I guess I would say I haven’t felt this way since seeing Django Unchained theatrically and being the “minority” in the viewing audience. Are you picking up what I’m dropping? I’m not going to tell you what the opening scene is constructed, but do know this. Like it or not Tom Ford knows how to get your undivided attention and I did not know whether to burst out in laughter or close my eyes in ugly protest/disgust. I suppose the latter would have been the most appropriate, but the former was really all I wanted to do. Ha ha.
Last but not least I wanted to talk about the overall style and performances throughout. Some may argue that Gyllenhaal and Taylor-Johnson were the breakout stars in Nocturnal Animals, but don’t count out the powerful brooding performances of Amy Adams and the always dominant Michael Shannon. They may not have acted against each other here, but both their latter performances were equally as brilliant as the opposing forces onscreen between Gyllenhaal and Taylor-Johnson’s characters. Raw, gritty and visceral describes what goes down within this story and real life here. And that’s the style of it all. This is a real page turner. Just like flipping through pages of an engrossing this book this film plays out in a real life counterpart sequence. Just why did Susan’s ex-husband write this book? Was it simply for revenge or were there deep, implanted reasons why? I’m not going to tell you, but the thrill of it all is discovering this for yourself as our main character relives and lives this pain over and over.
These few reasons above and so many more ladies and gentlemen is why I consider Nocturnal Animals a modern day masterpiece (it speaks to me for other personal reasons too that I care not divulge at this time of writing). The hypnotic score, offbeat jokes and stylistic fashion never pauses throughout. It’s a little bit Hell or High Water mixed with your sexually infused thriller of choice. In my opinion Nocturnal Animals is a stylish exercise that pays off thanks to its intoxicating narrative, powerful performances and rich characters that will leave you guessing and wanting more past the credits. Tom Ford gets your undivided attention from the very first frame and never lets you go as you suffer blow by painful blow with the characters completely engrossed in wanting to know how it all goes down. At the same time you find yourself lost in the blurring lines between fiction and reality (the page turning quality in complement with the real life events happening). My only complaint is the ending, but like all masterpieces you never want them to end? So you tell me is there ever an appropriate ending other than what Nolan did with The Dark Knight Rises? Smile, you’re on Candid Camera. Enjoy this one!
Opens in Limited Engagement
This Friday November, 18th