Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Nocturnal Animals (or the ANTI-La La Land)

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

And Amy…

amy-adams-got-robbed

“I’ll be okay. I’m used to it by now. At least Mel still loves me.”

And Amy Adams gets robbed of a nomination by an Academy of numbskulls!!

Nocturnal Animals (Focus Features)

nocturnal-animals-poster

Written & Directed by Tom Ford

Based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring Amy AdamsJake GyllenhaalMichael ShannonAaron Taylor-JohnsonIsla FisherArmie HammerLaura LinneyAndrea Riseborough & Michael Sheen

Nocturnal Animals feels like a 70’s thriller or some early 80’s Brian DePalma suspense shit, except without the suspense. The only thrills in the movie happen in the book. Not the book of the movie but the book inside the movie, which is way better than the real-life story. Amy Adams (winner for best actress on this blog) plays Susan Morrow, a gallery owner whose life is boring as hell. Her life is awful and so is this part of the movie. But she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband of his new novel. It’s good. It’s very good. It’s better than her life. The book is dramatized in the movie and those parts are better than the rest of the movie. They’re supposed to be. That’s the point.

jake-gyllenhaal-in-nocturnal-animals

“I don’t know what the big deal is. I NEVER get nominated.”

But watching Nocturnal Animals so soon after seeing La La Land forced me to compare them because both films are about young artists in a romance. The one in this movie is told in flashbacks, adding a third running narrative to the film. And again it’s better than the main story. So even though I like Nocturnal Animals, this is one of those movies that I have to spoil to talk about it. But as an added bonus, I’m also going to spoil La La Land in the process. So this is a combination Spared/Spoiled/Film Comparison in one.

Verdict: SPOILED (for being too interesting): Nocturnal Animals

AND

Verdict: SPOILED (by association): La La Land

I’m spoiling everything tonight.

Nocturnal Animals Amy Adams

“Spoil them… Spoil them all… Spoil everything… Spoil them all to hell.”

SPOILER ALERT (for both Nocturnal Animals and La La Land)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

First of all, she absolutely becomes her mother. Just like everyone says she would (including her mother). And I also liked the ending. It was poetic. I think I was waiting for the suspense to bleed over from the novel into the real world. And it never did. But Amy Adams is excellent as always. Jake Gyllenhaal is at his regular efficient automatic perfection. Seriously that guy pisses me off with how precise he is. I bet you every take is exactly the same with him. He’s a freaking robot.

michael-shannon-in-nocturnal-animals

“You shut your filthy mouth. The Academy is full of geniuses and saints. Saints, I tell ya!”

Armie Hammer plays the same character in every movie. So he plays that same character again here. The man just looks like a douche. Surprise!! He’s a douche. And Michael Shannon gives a fine performance. I would talk about his nomination but frankly those fools don’t know shit. So it’s not much of an honor. But I liked it. Nocturnal Animals grew on me as the back story got interesting and the fictional story got interesting and I waited for the present story to get interesting and it never did. And that was the point. And I got it. And I liked it. So as Amy Adams is waiting there in the restaurant hoping to rekindle something with the guy who is now successful and he doesn’t show up. And that brilliant awkward last scene drags on, I was digging it. It reminded me of some Neil LaBute revenge porn (that guy’s got serious problems).

amy-adams-in-nocturnal-animals

“Oh Academy. You’re breaking my heart. But then again you break everyone’s heart.”

And every review I (actually) read seems to think that the characters of the wife and daughter in the novel represent her. But I don’t think so. I think she reads that into the story to make her boring existence seem worth a few pages. If anything she’s the three criminals. But yeah he makes himself the lead, weak and powerless to defend his wife and child in the story and she sees him as weak in the back story, but by standing her up in the end, he proves that he isn’t the weak romantic writer that she can manipulate. And his book is better than her life even though everybody dies in it (seriously it’s like some Shakespearean shit. Everyone dies at the end). So I guess he wins… at life.

jake-gyllenhaal-nocturnal-animals

“I win at life!!! I win at… oops.”

Then of course, I imagined the ending of La La Land with only one of them being successful and not the other. (much less of a fairy tale). Because at the end of La La Land both the lovers are wildly successful and exactly where they want to be in life (like the most rags-to-riches depression era musical bull-shit) and it’s mostly due to the push each gives the other. You can say they sacrifice their love and life together for the other’s career and it works well for both.

nocturnal-animals-with-amy-adams

“Mel Rook & the 7 Deadly… nope. Life’s too short. What’s on YouTube? PUPPIES!!!”

Nocturnal Animals isn’t as sweet as all that. While in La La Land they inspire each other with tough love and support, in Nocturnal Animals, she inspires him with betrayal and he inspires her with revenge. It is… a lot more realistic (and nobody sings).  Emma Stone ends up married with a successful career and no guilt about leaving her first real love (and an Oscar nomination). While Amy Adams ends up married to a cheater with a failing gallery and guilt over how she betrayed her first love (and no nomination for her work in Arrival). It’s not fair (but then again Trump is in power and fair is a fairy tale).

Ryan Gosling and Jake Gyllenhaal both get what they want so fuck ’em.

nocturnal-animals

“Trump is the what now? You shitting me? Woo hoo. We got ourselves a white male president.”

Nocturnal Animals is almost too atmospheric at times in the main story. There are a couple of good laughs from her silly artsy friends and co-workers. Especially when she blatantly insults the woman who had too much work done on her face. That was hysterical. Her artwork is awful. Her life is awful. Her husband is cheating. They are hemorrhaging money and her ex-husband writes this kick-ass book. That’s some potent revenge porn. Seriously, Neil LaBute must love this film.

nocturnal-animals-amy-adams

“Operator. I’d like the number for a Neil LaBute please. Misogynist? Yes I’ll hold.”

But if she hadn’t broken his heart would he have been able to write his great American novel? Nocturnal Animals is a good story. But at times I thought it left a little too much on the table. Too atmospheric. Too strange. Too stylish. With wooden performances. Even though that was the point to make the novel more vibrant and more real than life. But because of it, it’s easy to separate the two and think that Nocturnal Animals is a movie about a boring woman reading a book, in the bed, in the tub, looking sexy… but still just reading. And then think the book in the movie is a better movie than the movie. But Nocturnal Animals is good. And it’s definitely worth a look if you’re like me and dated an artist who broke your heart. Or dated someone who didn’t believe in you. Because Nocturnal Animals is usually what you get. La La Land is the fantasy.

amy-adams

“I just read Mel’s blog… I must go to him.” Now THAT’S the fantasy.

In conclusion, Nocturnal Animals is the ANTI-La La Land and I’m glad, because after the Oscar nominations I needed a sober dose of anti-romanticism. And Amy Adams, my love, I’m so sorry, but you got stood up again.

– Mel

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7 thoughts on “Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Nocturnal Animals (or the ANTI-La La Land)

  1. I agree Nocturnal Animals needs to be “Spoiled” since it’s one of those that makes you want to talk about it with people! I think the characters in the novel (in the film) represent various people. Adams is definitely the novel’s main killer dude more than anyone else but I suppose the novel wife & daughter represent her & her child in that Gyllenhaal lost them both. But that was through her own actions so she’s mostly Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Some people seem to think that real-life (non-novel) Gyllenhaal may be dead at the end, which is why he doesn’t show. I don’t agree with that but I like a theory that he’s also partly Michael Shannon’s character. That maybe Gyllenhaal has also been diagnosed with terminal cancer & this book is his final revenge. Or at least his way of showing Adams that she destroyed his life. But I like to think, sick or not, he’s actually chosen to stand her up at the end so she feels the same lonliness he has for years. Shit… This comment is long. Sorry! But where does Shannon go in the novel? We don’t know – he just disappears. I think Gyllenhaal is also Shannon’s character in that Shannon talks about an estranged daughter he’s not seen in years. Does Adams definitely have the abortion? Honestly – this film was so deeply disturbing that I don’t wish to watch it again to verify but exactly who IS the twentysomething daughter that Adams phones??? The daughter appears about the same age that the child Adams would’ve had with Gyllenhaal would now be. Or did she immediately have another child with douche face after dumping Gyllenhaal? Seems odd (and cruel). Was that girl even real? Seemed such a bizarre, tacked on scene. We never hear another thing whatsoever about the “daughter”… Crap. Sorry! I’m still typing. I’ll shut up. (Amy Adams wins Best Actress for Arrival on my blog too!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • For some reason I thought the daughter was her aborted fetus. And that her “talking” to her was something she did from guilt. And her not having “talked” to her in a while was from alleviated guilt that had been brought back up by the book. Now the fact that she would only be a teenager and already sleeping with adult men in her own place, well that would be a question for the character’s therapist.

      I don’t think the author is dead. But that is an interesting theory. He used to send her manuscripts all the time and then suddenly stopped. She gets this one and the character that is so clearly him that it is played by the same actor, shoots himself (by accident) at the end of the story. That is an interesting theory and makes the revenge a little less revengy. But it does fit with her talking to a grown-up aborted fetus. Are we watching a woman who has totally lost it, lose what little she has left? Allegory? (I just wanted to use that word)

      But you’re absolutely right about not wanting to watch it again. For me it’s not because it’s bad. It is not. But because the story within the story takes a lot out of you. It’s so emotional and intense. And now I totally think he killed himself.

      First Hillary and now Amy… humans are too dumb for democracy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ohh!!!! That daughter was the daughter she aborted! Damn. That makes sense. I need to not take two weeks to read replies. This film was great but so emotionally draining – I know I won’t watch it again. But I appreciate it even more now after seeing The Neon Demon. Oh my god I hated that. Have you seen it?

        Like

      • I remember that now! I remember the Zoom review. Sounded interesting. I meant to say, um, I loved The Neon Demon? Yeah. That’s what I meant. ; ) I’m glad you liked it! I really wanted to…

        Like

      • It’s possible that if I hadn’t been high when I watched it that I wouldn’t have been able to get into it. But I was incredibly high and I did. I could have told you that you wouldn’t like it though. If I had written my review for you particularly, it would have ended with – Yeah but you won’t like it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I swear you told me I would like it. So I’m holding you personally responsible. ; ) Not really – I honestly thought I might love it. I bought the damn DVD! I was convinced! I need to try this getting high thing…

        Liked by 1 person

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