Nocturnal Animals (*) is weak

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Nocturnal Animals – 2016

Written and Directed by Tom Ford
Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen

Nocturnal Animals is the kind of story shared by people I will never be associated with in real life. I suppose this would not inherently make their viewpoint any less valid to me. That they don’t know how to tell their story effectively might, though.

It’s the kind of story where someone leaves an abortion clinic after having the procedure performed and then tells the person she is having an affair with that she is “Catholic and I don’t even believe in abortion.”

She is Susan (Adams), a “debutante” like her mother (Linney). At one point, she married her college sweetheart, Edward (Gyllenhaal) and tried to deny her true self. Even if she was not artistic, she could appreciate someone who was, right? Wrong. Her mother told her it was wrong in one of many poorly played out scenes at a fancy restaurant. She resisted for a while, then she ended up with Hutton (Hammer) after breaking it off with Edward and killing their baby.

Years later, after having a child of their own who is now full grown, Susan and Hutton are breaking apart. Edward sends Susan a manuscript out of nowhere and she begins to read it. What follows are scenes truly worthy of the MST3K treatment. There are so many boring shots of Susan reading Edwards story in any of a variety of comfortable rooms, it lampoons itself.

Meanwhile, the story she reads is preposterous. A family of 3, driving on a seemingly desolate road, are accosted by three random rednecks. Gyllenhaal is a father figure here named Tony. He has another red head (Fisher) as his wife and they have a daughter that has red hair too. This is curious to no one. It’s obvious what they are meant to represent. Anyone that doesn’t know what happens when rednecks come across families at night on a desert road in a movie can keep watching, if they can make it through. If they do, they deserve a reward. They won’t get one.

Tony ends up working with Detective Andes (Shannon) to find the rednecks afterword. That Shannon is nominated for supporting actor is not surprising. He truly made bad dialogue and a worse premise sing. He should not win for this garbage of a film, though.

Ford’s incompetent storytelling lays waste to the best efforts of Gyllenhaal. Rarely have I seen him try so hard and come up with so little. Adams is horrible. It could be this performance that kept her from her nomination worthy performance in Arrival. Everyone else in this movie come across like mannequins reading bad dialogue. That’s the best I can give it.

Ford has no talent that I can see for the art of movie making. Most of his shots come across like those awkward photos of kids in the 70’s when you get the front view and a soft side view in one shot. It’s supposed to be poignant and deep. It only produces awkward chuckles.

(* out of *****)

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