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Nocturnal Animals

Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star as a divorced couple opening painful  truths about each other and themselves through the course of a parallel story in a book.  Adams is an art dealer, living in relatively comfortable surroundings, but her mental state is fractured and broken.  As the story plays out, it reveals itself to be a neo-noir that is something that stands on it’s own.

It did remind me of David Lynch self indulgence in with Blue Velvet and Lost Highway, with some equal parts of The Coen Brothers Blood Simple and No Country for Old Men. The similarities are there in the tone and style, but it is very apparent this director had absolute control over the film, the same way Lynch and the The Coens did as well.

From the opening shots of this film, it is very apparent that this is not a conventional film.  It is a self indulgent opening title sequence with women clad in cheerleader outfits and part of an art exhibit, in high frame rate slow motion. But there is a twist.

There is ALWAYS a twist.

That being said, this film has some very great performances from all of the cast, including some I didn’t recognize, because they blended into their roles so well. Each character is nuanced and well played by all.  There are some dual roles in here as well, which to a casual viewer might confuse, but I suspect a second viewing would underline some of the plots clever pull.  However, because of the tension, I would hesitant to watch it again any time soon.  I am still thinking about it long after I have seen it, which is a good thing, if you like arthouse films with A list actors.

The cinematography is decent, and many of the shots linger on Adam’s beautiful blue eyes.  A bit more self indulgent, but she holds her gaze in a way that it would be difficult to cut away from her.

The urban real world and the West Texas book world interplay surprisingly well.  However, it almost felt like they were two movies trapped in one, and flipping back and forth between them almost as sporadically as one might flip from one film to another during a television viewing.  I don’t think that will sync with many conventional viewers, but once you get adjusted, it seems to make sense, most of the time.

The things I highlight as exceptional in this film might be a turnoff for some.  The dual movies in one sitting is probably the most frustrating part of the experience. They are connected, but in a metaphorical way.  Interestingly, this does give the filmmaker and cast a good case for doing an urban thriller or a road movie thriller.  Both inhabit this film, and it is pulled off with a conviction.

My main gripe would be the ending, which of course is probably the largest point of frustration with many viewers. There was a really good buildup and exploration of the characters, but the ending felt abrupt, almost to the point of condescension to the audience.  Again, it reminded me of the ending of Blue Velvet, but in the sense that it took the path of least resistance, and expressed a disdain for life.

This film leaves us with a question. But the answer is within your own exploration. It’s not the destination that you are supposed to like, but the journey. If the filmmakers take us on this journey however, they should make a resolution that is earned, rather than leaving their audience hanging. Amy Adams doesn’t get to do very much in the film other than react to the book’s dark text, where Jake Gyllenhaal has a lot to do.  It’s not as over the top as Neon Demon, perhaps, but Jena Malone does make her appearance. Overall, the film leaves us cold and is a product of the pretentious art world he’s critiquing in those opening shots. View at your own risk.

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Jason Turner is a creative auteur from Kansas City. He is an actor, director, writer, filmmaker, producer, and published comic book author.