Tuesday, December 13, 2016

3 Thoughts on Nocturnal Animals

1. Tom Ford's aesthetic - Tom Ford is obviously known for his sleek, sophisticated fashion designs - and more specifically, he made people take interest in men's suiting (the most boring item in all of fashion). However, he made a stunning first feature film with A Single Man. Released 7 years ago, I described it as "stylish, tailored, and timeless" and even though I've only seen it once, I am pretty sure it would make the cut if I created a best films of the last decade list. I eagerly awaited his next feature, and literally squealed out loud when I read about Nocturnal Animals earlier this year. While I don't love this film as much, it's still fucking beautiful. There is something so elegant about it, yet it's designed to make the audience uncomfortable. There is something so fascinating about a fashion designer making a film about materialism and consumerism; its irony and introspection is where the real genius lies. Which is why I don't think the mass audience is going to necessarily "get" it. That sounds extremely condescending, I know, but I saw this movie with my mother - someone who has a very basic knowledge of film, and an extremely limited knowledge of fashion. She has no idea who Tom Ford is, so the intimacy of the movie was lost on her (she still liked the movie, until the end because she was expecting a twist - because that's the kind of movies that she watches). It doesn't mean she didn't understand the different depths of the movie, but I don't think she appreciated it as much as I did. While it's inevitable to compare this to A Single Man, and in that respect, I would consider it a disappointment, Ford still made another beautiful movie that is my second favorite film of the year (10 Cloverfield Lane is still my favorite - the only film I see beating it is possibly La La Land).

2. The story within the story - I think the reason this movie worked so well is because of the novel within the story. It's set up from the very beginning to be a fictional tale - obviously the film itself is fictional, but I think it's always expected of the audience to comprehend the story as "the truth" unless we are told otherwise - and that is what this film does. It made me less likely to question motives because it's just "a story". And a downright disturbing story. While Adams' character reads this novel, she imagines it and the audience sees her visualization of this story. It's interesting because we only see her interpretation of the story which she imagines is being told about her own person, but what if that wasn't the intention? What if it was just a really disturbing story about a family on a road trip from Hell? This interpretation only intensifies her own narcissism in a really brilliant way. It also intensifies her regret of choosing a wealthy (miserable) life over love; it asks the question of whether she should be punished for this decision. Adams does a beautiful job of internalizing her regret, but it's really the actors in "the story" that shine - Gyllenhaal is brilliant as expected (and somehow gives my two favorite male performances on the year with this and Demolition), but fucking Aaron Taylor-Johnson BLEW MY MIND. I've never given him any credit for his acting abilities because he's been mediocre in everything. When he first appeared on screen, I even sighed out of utter disappointment, but he played the "bad guy" with such a fucking creepy, weird, and unpredictable ease - it's a performance that will be in my mind for a long time. Michael Shannon also delivers another quiet, inevitably under-appreciated role.

3. The climax - The story within the story is intense, disturbing, and keeps the audience in suspense. It contrasts beautifully with the pretentious, sterile, and ultimately dull life that our protagonist is living. The mixture of these two stories start to intertwine and overlap, and it's a bit expected for it to boil over and explode. Instead, it ends quietly and a bit unresolved. It's left up to interpretation as to what it all means, which I think will leave some feeling unfulfilled, but for me, I love how unexpected it was. The beauty lies in the build-up and not the climax, and if you think of the rhythm of the story as a metaphor for sex, then the last scene becomes even more stunning. I'm not sure if that's the intention - but I think we (the audience) are meant to feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

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