Been gearing myself up all week with the excitement of A Streetcat Named Bob opening last Friday…only to find it was at none of my four nearest cinemas.
But in a cinema mood and decided to go and see Nocturnal Animals because I’ll go and see anything with Amy Adams in it (Junebug, anyone?) and it’s had very mixed reviews (“misogynist” to “masterpiece”). I liked A Single Man but didn’t get that excited over it, so went in fairly open-minded.
I don’t really like writing negative reviews unless I feel passionate about something, so I have to say I thought this was an absolutely brilliant film. I was left quite speechless at the end by how powerful it was and how affected I was. In fact it was verging on the operatic.
So to address some of the critics’ comments. A lot’s been made of the perfection of the the clothes, the art, the interiors, the whole unattainable lifestyle of Susan, the Amy Adams character. Well yes but it’s a Tom Ford film and it’s not as if there’s never been made a film before with beautiful interiors, art and clothes. I found it a cold beauty which worked as a reflection of the Susan’s inner coldness. And also there were so, so many closeups of the actors faces. Nowhere to hide.
On that note I do wonder if the film would have been such a success without Adams’ central performance. She absolutely anchors the film, and has to do that without masses of dialogue. For those of you who don’t know, it’s based on a book Tony and Susan by Austin Wright (which I once nearly read hem-hem) which is a novel within a novel. Ford seems to have remained very faithful by dramatising the novel as Susan reads it. The film actually has a third layer, but it is the startling disparity of style between Susan’s story and the “inner” novel (in the original book called Nocturnal Animals) she is reading, which has divided a lot of viewers. The latter story is violent, shocking and completely gripping. At one point it was if people around me in the cinema had been holding their breath, as I heard some heavy sighs of relief as the tension went.
Also it is around this that the comments of misogyny have arisen. However the key here is Jake Gyllenhal (not one of my favourite actors, but superb in this film) playing two characters, one in each story, which shows the whole film is being shown from Susan’s perspective. She is not a victim, but around her as the central, very believable female, the film plays with its various, very different male characters to explore the complexities of masculinity. So for me the film hits a fascinating balance of interest in gender.
Thought-provoking, powerful stuff.