Susan (Amy Adams) is an art gallery owner struggling with her business, finding herself in a financial strain while husband Hutton (Armie Hammer) remains in a permanent state of travel for work and adulterous duties. Arriving in her office one afternoon is a manuscript for “Nocturnal Animals,” written by her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), who hopes to receive feedback on the work. Alone in her house, Susan deals with insomnia by digging into the book, reading the saga of Tony (Gyllenhaal), father to India (Ellie Bamber) and husband to Laura (Isla Fisher), who is subjected to absolute horror after a road rage run-in with Texas hick Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his gang. Scarred by the incident, Tony seeks help from Deputy Andes (Michael Shannon), trying to achieve lawful revenge on slippery men.
Review Nocturnal Animals
Review Nocturnal Animals
“Nocturnal Animals” isn’t a complete drag. Ford maintain a sense of mischief with the picture, which opens with provocative imagery from Susan’s latest gallery opening, watching obese, older women writhe around for the camera in slow-motion, with Ford drinking in every last jiggle. The main titles have nothing to do with the movie, but it’s certainly a way to inspire attention, with the initial moments of the effort promising a freak show that never arrives. Instead, Ford’s screenplay (adapting the 1993 novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright) takes a turn for the morose, finding Susan coming to terms with the impending failure of her business and her marriage, accidentally learning the reason why Hutton has been distant to her in recent weeks. Susan isn’t well, and escapism through Edward’s manuscript isn’t helping, exposing her to a tale of extreme violence and skin-clawing frustration that mirrors the emotional turbulence of the life she had with the aspiring writer she left behind.
“Nocturnal Animals” is really two movies, with Ford moving from Susan’s absorption of the book to the actual story being told. In the fictional realm, West Texas horrors are common, with Tony remaining committed to putting Ray behind bars for horrific crimes, requiring assistance and cultural leadership from Andes, who has a few secrets of his own. Keeping up with the pulp novel’s style, Ford lingers on suffering and anguish, which leaps off the page for Susan, who can’t handle the graphic content. However, connections between the dueling realities of “Nocturnal Animals” begin to fade away in the second half, with Tony’s quest dominating the feature, though it’s consistently the less interesting of the two tales. Instead of mining Susan’s shock with the life she’s chosen for herself, Ford sticks with the nightmare of Ray, with Taylor-Johnson giving a disappointingly cartoonish performance that falls miles below what Gyllenhaal and Shannon are offering.
“Nocturnal Animals” eventually returns to Susan’s world, filling in the gaps of her pain and guilt, creating a second story of revenge as Edward’s work, born from talent she once callously dismissed, completely haunts her. It’s too little, too late, leaving the last act missing a drive of climatic suspense it would otherwise possess in a more balanced film. Ford doesn’t make ugly movies, and “Nocturnal Animals” glistens with fashion, art, and architecture. It’s a sharply made picture, but it’s cold to the touch, existing more as a test of skill for Ford than an engrossing tale. Twists and turns are added, but it all feels bland and pointless after the first hour, with more attention placed on the color of lipstick than the building of tension.