I think I know what happened. So about 8 years ago, fashion designer Tom Ford read a book. Actually, scratch that. He read a screenplay adapted from a book. He thought, “Hey, I could make this movie.” So he did. And that movie was A Single Man and it was awesome and everything about it is perfect in my opinion. With that film, the screenplay was mostly done by another fella named David Scearce, a lawyer by trade. Maybe Ford saw a kindred soul in a man who dabbled in creating film in addition to his main profession. I don’t know, I’m not psychic. By the way, don’t take your normal highway exit today, trust me.
Since that movie did quite well, Tom Ford gets a relatively big head. Everyone praising his style, his auteur-like approach to filmmaking, so when he reads a book finally, (Tony and Susan by Austin Wright), he thinks, “Hey, I could make this movie.” But instead of getting, you know, a screenwriter, he just thinks “I can do that part too.” No you can’t, Tom Ford, and your Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay should go down in history as one of the most undeserved nominations of all time. That’s not hyperbolic. It’s that bad.
Let me talk a little bit about the movie, though. Nocturnal Animals is the name of the story-within-a-story novel written by Amy Adams’ Susan’s ex-husband Edward. We see both Susan’s story as well as the story of Nocturnal Animals the novel. Does any of that come across in this trailer?
No? Didn’t think so. There is actually, very strangely, about a 70/30 split of time spent on the story of the novel (70) and the time spent on reality (30). In all fairness, the novel on which the movie is based is titled Tony and Susan and the SWaS novel is still titled Nocturnal Animals whereas Ford chose to just title his film Nocturnal Animals so I guess that was a calculated move on Ford’s part. The problem? The novel story is so much more interesting than Susan’s white people first world problems that I don’t care at all about her. I don’t care her husband is cheating on her. I don’t care she regrets leaving Edward. I don’t care. I don’t care. I. Don’t. Care. How dare you make me not care about an Amy Adams character, Tom Ford!
There are also so many unnecessary things that happen in this film. For instance, Susan gets a paper cut early on. Literally no point except to force someone else to read out loud what she would have otherwise read silently. Oh boy, you really pulled one over on me there, Tom! Unnecessary. Everything in the novel story is known to be fiction, so it is completely inconsequential (and I know the whole movie s fictional but I mean the novel story is fictional even to these fictional characters so it’s twice removed). What’s that? Oh yes, I hear you out there.”But the novel’s story is a metaphor!” Yeah? Well it’s a metaphor that teaches a lesson to someone that, as we’ve established, I don’t give a lick about. So what’s the point? He’s dangerously close to style-over-substance in Kubrickian proportions.
It wasn’t all bad, though. Jake Gyllenhaal turns in a fine dual-role performance, as he is wont to do most of the time. Michael Shannon is also awesome. And, most importantly, Tom Ford made the bold move of finally pointing out in film that Amy Adams and Isla Fisher look identical because Fisher is the stand-in for Adams when the novel narrative plays out on screen.
Aside from script and narrative blunders. Ford is a master stylist and nobody and nothing can take that away from him. He chose to work with Seamus McGarvey on this film who is a severely underrated cinematographer. They really capture the horror of the events when there should be horror and the coldness of Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) in her home. Staging, composition, all that stuff was pristine which all speaks to McGarvey’s and Ford’s respective talents. On composing duty is Abel Korzeniowski who also scored A Single Man which did make this film more enjoyable. The compositions playing over the film all added a gravitas that the actual events unfolding on-screen lacked.
However, if you ask me, Tom Ford needs to work with a screenwriter on his next film project because A Single Man is truly amazing
Watch that. Don’t watch this.