The Dreadful “Nocturnal Animals”

It was horrible! One patron’s reaction

Give this movie a wide berth

By Roger Childs

nocturnal-animalsWatching this film made me ponder on why studios spend so much time, energy and money on producing lemons. After his impressive, thought-provoking A Single Man, Tom Ford’s second movie is a pretentious flop.

How it won the Venice Grand Jury Prize and three Golden Globe nominations is beyond comprehension.

The story centres on Susan Morrow, who is an emotionally insecure up-market gallery owner. The day after the opening of her latest show, she receives a parcel in the mail which contains the draft of a book written by her ex-husband.

Most of the film enacts this fanciful novel, set against some confusing shifts in time and place in the real world.

One lone star, and that’s because it was mainly shot in Texas.

Generally poor characterisation

Amy Adams ponders her situation
Amy Adams ponders her situation

Amy Adams provides an over-acted, over-wrought and doubtless, over-paid, performance as Susan Morrow. Playing both Edward and Tony, Jake Gyllenhaal does OK, but overdoes the angry young man element of his dual roles.

None of the characters is well developed, and probably the best performance is provided by the cancer-ridden cop, well played by Graham Beckel. However, we needed to know more about his background beyond a couple of one-liners.

Ford could have provided more depth and detail about the key figures in the story, instead of drawing out the story of the novel in unnecessary detail and playing around with arty camera work.

Script deficiencies

Too much of the dialogue consists of unconvincing elements such as a number of pointless explicit comments and artificial arty conversations. Visually, there are some obscenely gyrating, corpulent models, a gross toilet scene as well as plenty of gratuitous violence: all of which are a real turn-off for the patrons.

Graham Beckel: the pick of the actors
Graham Beckel: the pick of the actors

Furthermore, there are some strange incidents like Morrow cutting her finger as she unwraps the book, (symbolising ‘this story contains blood-letting”?), and Jake shaving off the beard of a lifetime as he cleans up after the inter-state road rage.

The cinematography is generally well done, but the twinkling lights from the Hollywood Hills and the beautiful cloudy sunrises in the Texas backblocks don’t add a lot to the unfolding stories.

Ford hits us with naked obese female models in the opening credits, but he does not extend the courtesy of such full-frontality to the more attractive performers. Instead we have the typically American coy nude shots of the stars, which European audiences and film makers find laughable.

Give it a miss 

From the grotesque ladies at the start, to the rising crescendo of music for the totally predictable final restaurant scene, this is an expensive flop. There’s not even a convincing explanation on how the film got its title.  Stay away!

The best things about our cinema experience that evening, were the ice creams from the Candy Bar.