This seems to be a good year for Amy Adams. Despite a critical drubbing, Batsoup featuring her as Lois Lane made a ton of money at the box office. The smart sci-fi film Arrival came out a few weeks ago and the person I know who didn’t like it is Canadian. And now we have Nocturnal Animals, a thriller of sorts written and directed by fashion designer-turned-director Tom Ford.
How was it?
Not what I thought it would be, that’s for sure.
Let’s be clear: this movie isn’t really a thriller, so don’t go expecting one. Most thrillers don’t open with overweight naked women dancing during the opening credits. Essentially, we get three intertwining stories: present day Susan (Adams) living what might best be described as an emotionally dead life, flashbacks to an initially-happier time with ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) revealing how that relationship started and finished, and the events of a novel written by Edward and dedicated to Susan about a quiet man named Jake (also Gyllenhaal) looking for justice after a family trip goes very, very wrong.
The three storylines all more or less combine, and Susan and Edward’s past greatly informs the novel as the novel greatly informs how Susan feels about how her life turned out. I had thought that Jake’s wife was also Adams, given the long red hair and all, but it turned out to be Ilsa Fisher looking an awful lot like Adams. As it is, this is a movie where a number of rather recognizable actors like Michael Sheen and Laura Linney have very little screen time, and that’s probably OK.
The thing that struck me about the movie was there wasn’t much of a plot so much as Ford, as befitting his background in fashion, is creating something of a series of impressions using design, framing and lighting. The three stories feed each other visually as well as anything else, and the opening scenes depicting Adams with noticeable make-up but seemingly not to feel much of anything may not say much towards the plot but it does towards how Susan is feeling. Considering the way the movie seems to require Adams to not really emote much outside the flashbacks, that may or may not be to a specific audience member’s tastes, so you’ve been warned.
The movie did grow on me as it went along, though I’m not sure it worked as well as it could have. Let’s say eight out of ten cops with lung cancer. The ending helps, but the build-up is accomplished more visually than anything else.