Penned Revenge – Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Dark read.  So this is about an art gallery owner (Amy Adams).  She’s on her second husband (Armie Hammer), so it is a bit odd when her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) sends her a copy of his new revenge novel that is dedicated to her.  This came highly recommended to me, so you know I was going to go out of my way to see this in a theater.  Even from the opening credits, I knew that this was going to be something way different than I usually get to see.  I will say that it doesn’t disappoint in that regard, even though it is a movie that I walked away from feeling an array of different emotions.

2It’s not something you come out of feeling positive and hunky-dory about.

As soon as you get to the opening art show, you are jarred and disoriented.  This movie opens with a bunch of fully nude overweight women dancing with sparklers in front of the camera.  Call it art if you will, but it is an effective way of making the audience feel uncomfortable.  This is a dark and sordid story, and with it being as structurally complex as it is, it is never difficult to follow.  You have baseline story that is what I described above, but in between that you have the novel that is being visualized as she is reading it.  Further complicating things is the fact that Gyllenhaal is playing the lead in the story as well as her first husband in real life.  It sounds convoluted, but you never at any point fail to follow where the story is going, so for that, a lot of credit has to go to both the director and the editor.  I do think that Gyllenhaal does well in this duel role, and I also think that Amy Adams shows more range than she typically shows.  Sure, she’s great in Arrival, but I still saw Amy Adams when I was watching that.  The character she is playing here is an older women who is a bit broken, and it is not a flattering role; she is constantly overdoing it on dark makeup because there is a constant sadness in her eyes, and this really isn’t all that attractive of a role for her.

1It’s not a role most actresses would be chomping at the bit to take.

The most impressive performance in this does come from Aaron Taylor-Johnson.  He is unrecognizable in this psycho hillbilly role, and he is intimidating and fearsome.  Everybody is good, but he pushes this over the edge to make the thriller aspect work as well as it does.  Between this and Hell or High Water, I don’t think I will be planning a vacation to West Texas any time soon.  If you like your stories gritty and disturbing, then you should check this out.  If you prefer light and easy going, you should do your best to actively avoid this.

Nocturnal Animals (2016) ****

– Critic for Hire

Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2016?  See for yourself here.

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