We disagreed about Tom Ford’s newest movie. One of us was drawn to the postmodernistic, story-within-a-story storytelling; the other one was turned off by the movie’s soapy, melodramatic nihilism. We both praised Michael Shannon’s hilarious turn as a Texas sheriff, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as a charming, violent hick. There’s also Ford, who has a keen eye and an ability to make his stars and settings stiflingly gorgeous; Nocturnal Animals joins The Neon Demon and Knight of Cups as one of the year’s most alluring movies. Yet, unlike in those movies, the beauty in Nocturnal Animals was not transfixing because the characters, and the actors playing them, were annoying. Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams, who play ex-lovers, and Gyllenhaal, who also plays a character in the book Adams’s character is reading, put on posey performances. Look at me, look at me, I’m acting! they seem to be saying, as if to put even more postmodern distance between them and us. This is not to say that you should stay away from the movie. Nocturnal Animals may not be greater than the sum of all its shiny parts, but they are shiny nonetheless. And, unlike feel-good movies, which need to be excellent to resonate with you, feel-bad movies, like this one, tend to gnaw at you long after they’re over. Buyer beware.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White