Nocturnal Animals review Tom Ford’s deliciously toxic tale of revenge

Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams star in the gripping story of a broken-hearted ex-husband who wreaks vengeance decades later with his unpublished novel

Nocturnal Animals delivers a double shot of horror and Nabokovian despair: its excessive, outrageous, a story within a story about the super-rich and super-poor. Director Tom Ford has adapted Austin Wrights 1993 novel Tony and Susan, magnifying its cruelties and ironies, and bringing to it a sheen of hardcore porn and pure provocation.

This movie had its premiere at Venice earlier this year, and it was every bit as horribly gripping and intimately upsetting this second time around. But now I was struck by its emphasis on the writers brooding, solitary life: the writer for whom autobiographical fiction is therapy and revenge. Watching this film, I found myself wondering how Evelyn Waughs first wife felt when she received her copy of A Handful of Dust, and realised exactly how the author felt about her.

Tom Ford on Nocturnal Animals: Im conflicted about what I do

Its a film with a double-stranded narrative, and it pulls off the considerable trick of making you care about both of its stories equally, something I think The French Lieutenants Woman never entirely managed. Clive James once wrote that talk about levels of reality never properly acknowledges that one of these levels is really real. But in Nocturnal Animals, these levels are equally powerful, and have an intriguingly queasy, potent interrelation.

The scene is Los Angeles where Susan (Amy Adams) is a successful but disillusioned and unhappily married gallery owner, who abandoned her own ambitions to be an artist, and now specialises in modish, challenging contemporary pieces. And I here admit that the opening, Lynchian images of these are too obviously shocking and parodic, a shortcoming that has to be overlooked due to this films overall bravura brilliance.

She is astonished to receive, out of the blue, the manuscript of an unpublished novel from her first husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she hasnt heard from in nearly 20 years: a sweet, sensitive boy from her Texas hometown whose heart she broke twice over: by leaving him for her wealthy second husband, and by declaring he didnt have the right stuff to be an author that he was insecure and weak. (In Wrights novel she is a college professor, not an art dealer, so the literary judgment was perhaps more cutting.) There is another terrible issue in their pasts, invented here by Ford.

Susan begins to read and Ford dramatises his manuscript right in front of us. This is no feathery literary confection: it is a brutal west Texas crime thriller like something Jim Thompson could have written, about a family man called Tony Susan imagines Edward, that is, Jake Gyllenhaal in the role who takes his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and his daughter Helen (Ellie Bamber) on a road trip vacation across the remote desert, where they are terrorised by a feral gang led by the brutish Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). It is a nightmarish situation that leads to a confrontation with a classic, laconic, stetson-wearing Texas lawman, tremendously played by Michael Shannon.

Susan is horrified, and we feel her horror. Edward is putting his ex-wife and us through an unspeakable ordeal, a little bit like Spielbergs Duel, but perhaps closer to a European nightmare, like Michael Hanekes Funny Games which incidentally came out after Wrights novel. It also reminded me somewhat of the truly horrible climax of Bruno Dumonts movie Twentynine Palms.

Of course, the theme of revenge begins, inexorably, to emerge. Here is what happens when the weak guy decides to get tough. The book is about revenge and it is revenge: a cherry bomb of rage and malice lobbed into Susans perfect little life. It is Edwards furious way of making her feel something, anything, about him.

Nocturnal Animals is also about the revenge of the past on the present and present on the past. As an older person, you avenge the slights and reversals of struggling youth by getting rich and successful. The younger person, reaching out maliciously from the past, mocks this bland victory with memories of the idealism you have abandoned, the youthful beauty and hope you have lost and the sickening inevitability of becoming like the older generation you once despised.

There are tremendous flashbacks, triggered incongruously by the grisly crime-genre shocks, that carry Susan back to the decisions she made and unmade in her youth. And there is a glorious scene with Susan and her reactionary, Martini-sipping mamma, wonderfully played by Laura Linney. What an audacious, uninhibited performance from Tom Ford, and such great work from Adams, Gyllenhaal, and Shannon and Linney. There is an unwholesome kind of toxic deliciousness in this film: a vodka kick of pure malice.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/nov/03/nocturnal-animals-review-tom-ford-amy-adams-jake-gyllenhaal

The post Nocturnal Animals review Tom Ford’s deliciously toxic tale of revenge appeared first on Safer Reviews, Unbiased & Independent Reviews..

from Safer Reviews, Unbiased & Independent Reviews. http://www.saferreviews.com/nocturnal-animals-review-tom-fords-deliciously-toxic-tale-of-revenge/
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