HOLLYWOOD—I was eagerly waiting till the moment where I could find time to watch the latest film by fashion designer turned filmmaker Tom Ford, “Nocturnal Animals.” However, the hype over this film is not what it lives up to in my personal opinion. One thing I must point out is the stylistic element crafted by director Tom Ford. As a spectator, you can almost pinpoint certain elements that gravitate towards Ford’s taste not only in fashion, but the atmospheric mood setting throughout the narrative.
The movie stars Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal as Susan Morrow and Edward Sheffield. When the movie first opens, we are introduced to Susan’s world. She comes across depressed, trapped and just unhappy, which Adams conveys with such subtlety you forget that she is on the screen. That is a testament to an actress who really immerses herself into her characters. However, married life seems problematic for Susan, whose husband Hutton (Armie Hammer) ignores her. Quite frankly, they appear to have a marriage of convenience more than anything.
The one thing people have to understand walking into the theater is that this movie jumps from the real world to a novel world. Yes, that was something I didn’t quite expect. If you’re not carefully attuned to the narrative this will create a bit of a disruption in one’s attempt to make sense as to what is transpiring. What I enjoyed about the movie is its ability to take what it means to be in love and to be in a relationship and turn it inside out in a crafty way. Ford’s script is quite original to say the least, but fails to realize all audience members may not be smart enough to pick up on the allegory or subject matter.
I found myself more enthralled in the novel world of the movie than reality. It’s apparent that Susan is disturbed by the subject matter in her ex-husband’s novel because it strikes a chord with her on multiple occasions. While plenty have advocated the performance by Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Ray Marcus, a gang leader who abducts Tony Hastings (Gyllenhaal) and his family while on a road trip, I found the performance more annoying. This is a character that is expected to crazed, manic and ‘scary,’ but not for once did I get that from this character. It was more like that gnat that just keeps buzzing around you, but you can’t see to get rid of it.
However, one must note the performance by Michael Shannon as a detective who works alongside Tony in his quest to find justice. The Academy did indeed get things right by nominating the underrated actor in the Best Supporting Actor race. Gyllenhaal, who gives two different performances, excels with his presence on screen as Tony, while I felt Edward was not fleshed out enough. To be honest, the actual real world portion of the movie lacks substance.
As much as I wanted to be engrained in Susan and these other character’s lives, there just wasn’t enough subject material given to make me as a viewer care. This woman works in an art gallery, yet I can only recall her being there once, we never see her dabble in any actual drawings and the little portions of Edward and Susan’s relationship that we get are small dollops to what you crave as a spectator entering someone else’s world.
“Nocturnal Animals” has all the makings of what could have been a phenomenal psychological thriller, but the teases from those movie trailers and TV spots are all a façade for a movie that fails to deliver what the viewer expects.