Nocturnal Animals has had an interesting reaction since it premiered at Telluride this past fall. I seem to remember there was a mixed to positive reaction, but those who liked it, really liked it and with a cast that includes Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, and Laura Linney, I thought to myself, how could this go wrong?
Yeah. Apparently it could, and it did.
The movie begins, and revolves around, Susan Morrow (Amy Adams). She’s married to Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer) and both have decided to make a secluded mansion their home. Susan and Hutton’s relationship appears strained, a distance between the two of them has formed that’s only reinforced by a later scene where it’s shown that Hutton is getting into in elevator with another woman while he’s out of town.
The meat of the movie takes place while Susan is reading a book given to her by her ex-husband, Edward (who has also written the book), and the viewer sees the book as Susan perceives it. This story-line (featuring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon) is a revenge tale that Susan is disturbed by, causing her to think back to how (and therefore giving the movie another story-line) her relationship with Edward started and ended. These three story-lines bleed into another, giving the viewer a better understanding of what’s going on inside Susan’s mind, but the effect makes each of the three story-lines feel underdeveloped, and the actors under-utilized.
There is a good idea underneath it; I won’t deny the movie that. That idea, however, was poorly executed and poorly paced. I’ll also give Tom Ford credit for the look of the movie and for at least trying something different. But all in all, this is a major disappointment.