It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing debut A Single Man, and it's no surprise that his second film is just as exquisitely beautiful to look at. What's unexpected is the complexity of the storytelling. Adapted by Ford from Austin Wright's novel Tony and Susan, this movie has three sides to it: a romantic drama, a darkly personal odyssey and a freaky thriller. These elements kind of fight for the audience's attention, but they're sharply played and packed with intense emotion.
Set in Los Angeles, everything revolves around gallery owner Susan (Amy Adams), who lives in a spectacular home with her banker husband Hutton (Armie Hammer), who's facing financial problems. Susan is shocked when she receives a manuscript by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has finally finished his long-gestating novel. But as she reads it, she realises that their break-up inspired the story, and she pictures Edward in the central role as Tony, a man travelling through Texas with his wife and daughter (Isla Fisher and Ellie Bamber), who are kidnapped and brutalised by roadside thugs led by the unstable Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). So Tony teams up with jaded detective Bobby (Michael Shannon) to track them down.
The film's central narrative is Susan's deeply internalised discovery of her own dark soul, which plays out both in her scenes with Hutton and figuratively in the fictional thriller narrative. All of these things take complex twists and turns that have vivid moral shadings. But of course the Wild West action element continually steals focus from the more understated personal drama. In this sense, Gyllenhaal has the trickiest role, or rather two roles, as the story's catalyst and victim. Meanwhile, Adams is strikingly transparent as Susan, engaging in jagged interaction with both Gyllenhaal's enigmatic Edward and Hammer's eerily heartless Hutton.
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Richard Gere delivers such a charming, layered performance that he overcomes a contrived plot that piles too many financial and personal crises on the central character. But Gere is magnetic, and the film's themes resonate at a time of economic difficulty, most notably in the idea that all major world events revolve around money.
Gere plays 60-year-old financial mogul Robert, who lives the high life with a private jet, glamorous philanthropist wife Ellen (Sarandon) and sexy French art-dealer mistress Julie (Casta). He seduces the press with his intelligent wit, and has managed to conceal the fact that he's in severe money trouble. Everything hinges on selling his company, but the buyers are dragging their feet. Then he is involved in a fatal car crash that could undo everything. He turns to an estranged friend (Parker) for help, but a tenacious police detective (Roth) is beginning to piece it all together.
Having Gere in the central role makes all the difference here, because he is able to add the subtext and moral ambiguity that's lacking in the script and direction. Otherwise, it's shot like a too-obvious TV movie with close-up camerawork, a bland Cliff Martinez score and constant moralising about family values. By contrast, Gere is a shady character who is up to all kinds of unethical things and yet holds our sympathies because we can see that he's not all bad. Even so, the script puts him through the wringer, with a never-ending stream of personal and professional problems.
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Eva (Swinton) is a shell of her former self, living in isolation as the target of anger from an entire community. She clearly blames herself for an act of violence unleashed by her 15-year-old son Kevin (Miller), and misses her husband (Reilly) and daughter (Gerasimovich). But as she finds a job and starts to put her life together, the memories won't stop swirling in her mind. Does she even deserve to have survived such a horrific event? Can she ever make peace with the grieving, enraged people around her?
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It's been seven years since designer Tom Ford made a splash with his award-winning writing-directing...
Richard Gere delivers such a charming, layered performance that he overcomes a contrived plot that...