Monday, December 12, 2016

"Nocturnal Animals" is a wickedly delightful story!

Nocturnal Animals Review
What drives us to do the things we do? How do we react to things? Is how we are brought up? Is it due to the intensity of the moment? What is it about human beings that forces us to react to things, to make decisions, to cave into our surroundings? How strong are you? How weak are you? Do your strengths and weaknesses play a role in your relationships, or professions or ambitions?

These questions drive the narrative of "Nocturnal Animals," the new movie by Tom Ford, based on the novel by Austin Wright. This is a movie that will definitely have you thinking. During the movie, after the movie, days after the movie. Its been over a full twenty-four hours since I've seen it and I still have not been able to shake it. I guess that is what happened when a thriller gets so far under your skin, penetrating your soul. "Nocturnal Animals" is a movie that begs you to get lost in it. Actually, that's not true. It doesn't beg, absolutely fucking no begging. Instead, the movie grabs you by the hair, throws you in the car and takes you on this wild ride, making sure your disoriented throughout.

That's pretty evident in the opening sequence, which is without a doubt, the most iconic opening sequence you'll see in a movie all year. I am not going to describe it, I am not going to type one single sentence or word about it. It just is, and if you are still willing to follow the white rabbit down the hole of  this story after that opening sequence, then get ready for what's coming. The story follows Susan Marrow (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner who lives in Los Angeles. The art she showcases has a rough edge, but its led her to have a lavish lifestyle. That lifestyle begins to feel threatened when her husband (Armie Hammer) is constantly on the road on business trips. She suspects he's cheating, after all she can sense the feeling. She did the same thing to her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she left after cheating on him. 

One day, Susan abruptly receives a book transcript from Edward, who was aspiring to be an author. Not only is it weird that Edward his ex-wife a transcript out of the blue, but he dedicated the book to her. She opens it up one long weekend when her husband is away, and she gets lost in it.

Susan begins to do what I feel like we all do when we are reading books. When I read a book, I imagine actors or regular people in the roles of the characters of the book. In Susan's case, we get a glimpse of what she pictures through the descriptions. Gyllenhaal also plays Tony Hastings, the main character in Edward's book, who takes his wife (Isla Fisher) and their daughter (Ellie Bamber) on a road trip in West Texas. They are toyed around with another car on the road, and eventually Tony's wife and daughter are kidnapped by three creeps, led by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Tony is left stranded and he gets a hold of the police. Tony later finds out from officer Andes (Michael Shannon) that his wife and daughter were raped and murdered by Ray and his boys. So Tony and Andes go on the trail to find them.

As Susan is reading this deeply disturbing book, she begins to reminisce about her relationship with Edward. And as weird things begin happening around her, we get the sense that perhaps there is much more to the intentions of Edward and sending Susan a copy of his book. The best advice I can give when going into this movie is don't overthink it. However, don't try to tell me that the abrupt ending is meaningless, because its absolutely not meaningless. I want to revisit this one to go over its meanings, but something is definitely there. Clues to Edward's intentions are laced throughout the entire movie, and you have to be willing to piece them together in order to get it.

Amy Adams is spectacular here, she is having such a great end-year that I forgive her for "Batman vs. Superman." She wraps herself in the character of Susan and creates a bruised portrait of this deeply flawed woman. I have never seen her so alive onscreen in awhile. She takes in every scene, she shines in every moment, desperate to make the scenes hers. And I got to say she succeeds on nearly every level.

Then there's Jake Gyllenhaal and the characters of Tony and Edward are both similar to each other, but there is a reason for that, something I can't quite get into yet. Truth be told, I can't imagine playing two different characters in one movie, but Gyllenhaal makes it all look so easy. I know he's not the first actor in history to pull this off, but the effortless manner in which he does it is applaud-worthy. 

Oh, and I need to give a special mention to Aaron Taylor-Johnson. He's a guy you know whether you realize it or not. He's the main character in the "Kick-Ass" movies. He was Quicksilver in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," He was in "Savages," "Anna Karenina" and "Godzilla." I've enjoyed Taylor-Johnson's presents in all of his films so far, but his work here is his best work to date. Bar none. Ray Marcus is a slimeball of a character, a vile sonofabitch and Taylor-Johnson relishes every moment in the character's skin. He really is an iconic creep. Taylor-Johnson, Adams and Gyllenhaal are all guided with Hammer, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen and Michael Shannon all of whom also do great work here. 

Its amazing how "Nocturnal Animals" is bleakly funny at moments, but then disgustingly serious in other parts. Also be ready for a juicy jump scare that actually got my entire auditorium to react, deeming every horror film that came out this year jealous. You'll know it when you see it and it totally got me. But most importantly, soak up every detail, keep your eyes open, because the ending does mean something. If there is one thriller you see all year, make it "Nocturnal Animals."


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