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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, August 11, 2017

Movie Review - Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen, and Laura Linney
Directed by Tom Ford

There's a line in Nocturnal Animals in which a character mentions that a book was disappointing because she found her mind drifting elsewhere whilst reading it.  The same could be said for the movie Nocturnal Animals, a film that tells a story within a story with neither tale being quite compelling enough to stand on its own and neither tale meshing together in a way that proves to be an all-around satisfying whole.  In his second film, writer-director Tom Ford (a fashion designer in his other line of work) continues to prove that he's got an eye for the visuals, but that he still hasn't quite grasped the storytelling aspect of cinema.

We're first introduced to Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner in Los Angeles, as she morosely mopes around her huge house dealing with an obviously unhappy marriage to her husband (Armie Hammer) who himself is facing some financial troubles.  Soon after, Susan receives a manuscript for a new novel from her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) and she escapes into the book which features a main character who seems an awful lot like her.  As Susan reads, the novel plays out onscreen -- Tony Hastings (Jake Gyllenhaal) is driving along a deserted Texas roadway with his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and daughter India (Ellie Bamber).  A group of frightening men headed by the skeezy Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) run the Hastings off the road and then kidnap the family.  Tony manages to escape but is unaware of where his wife and daughter are being kept so he finds a small-town cop (Michael Shannon) to set out and try to find his family and enact revenge those who committed this crime.

I'm sure that somewhere in the midst of the two tales there are solid connections -- either via visual similarities or storytelling allusions -- but things never came cohesively together for me.  Plus, the Amy Adams side of things is oddly uncompelling in any way.  It doesn't help that Adams shows nary an emotion throughout, presenting an ice queen persona that doesn't allow the viewer to feel sympathy for her despite her mundane life.  The "novel" storyline fares a little better with Gyllenhaal giving a nice performance as the beleaguered father.  Michael Sheen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson were nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe respectively for their roles here (and Taylor-Johnson even won), but their characters seemed a bit too one-note to garner any real attention for me.  Frankly, the same could be said for the film itself -- it doesn't really deserve to garner any real attention.  I continue to think that Tom Ford has the potential to be something great, but his two films thus far haven't landed him there.  Maybe sticking to lensing things as opposed to writing them is his road to a better directorial future.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

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