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quarta-feira, 9 de novembro de 2016
Intoxicating, provocative, delicious - Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal star in Nocturnal Animals: review
Director: Tom Ford; Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Laura Linney. Cert 15, 115 mins.
Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is the owner of a modern art gallery in Los Angeles who lives in a precisely furnished Beverly Hills mansion and is married to an immaculately dressed millionaire toy-boy played by Armie Hammer. In short, life’s a parade of misery.
Susan is the lead character in Nocturnal Animals, the elegantly ludicrous – and ludicrously enjoyable – new film from Tom Ford, the fashion designer and director of A Single Man. Or at least, Susan is the lead character of half of it. Like Tony and Susan, the Austin Wright novel on which it’s based, Ford’s film boxes one story inside another initially unrelated-looking one, then lets the latter ooze out and engulf its frame, like a painting that won’t stay put on its canvas.
One morning, Susan receives a parcel from Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), her ex-husband of 19 years ago. It’s the manuscript of the novel he’d always wanted to write – a sun-curdled, Texas-set Lone Star noir called Nocturnal Animals, which Susan takes to bed for the weekend while husband Walker (Hammer) is attending to ‘urgent business’ in New York which entails an extra-marital affair. (In the book, Susan was a part-time teacher and mother of three and Walker a doctor, but come on: this is a Tom Ford film.)
Ford knows that having us sympathise with his heroine is a big ask: “What right do I have to be unhappy?”, Susan quizzes a friend at a house party. “Well, it’s all relative,” she responds with a shrug, though in fact it’s all relatives, plural – and as she scans the pages of her ex-husband’s intensely autobiographical novel, choice morsels of Susan’s familial troubles swish past as if on silver trays you can’t help nibbling from: a little scoop of domineering mother here (Laura Linney, socking her single scene right through the back wall of the cinema), a soupçon of marital betrayal there.
Edward's novel plays out as a film within a film, with Gyllenhaal doubling up as Tony Hastings, a man who takes his wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter (Ellie Bamber) on a road trip, during which they’re tormented, increasingly traumatically, by three beered-up redneck sadists. (The ringleader is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson in a perfect little haiku of fickle menace.) Later on Michael Shannon arrives, under the shadow of a Stetson, as detective Bobby Andes, a man who “looks into things around here”, as he puts it – and he and Tony do indeed look into a horrific case together, the emotional DNA of which turns out to be intertwined with the seemingly-worlds-away precision of Susan’s gilded LA existence.
Shannon is almost self-caricaturingly (and certainly Oscar-worthily) great here: in the past he’s played roles that have demanded more from him, but none have demanded more Michael Shannon. Yet you sense Ford’s eyes are mostly on the remarkable Adams, who gives Susan a brittle resilience that feels like peak-form Nicole Kidman, but galvanises it with a crispness of expression that’s entirely her own.
In regular exquisite close-ups – often when Susan is doing nothing more than reacting to the manuscript – we watch contradictory feelings washing across her face before Adams brings them snapping to a focal point, landing on the exact essence of the moment.
There’s no question the Gyllenhaal and Shannon sections feel like "the fun bits" as you watch, but it’s the Adams framing story that gives Ford’s film its swoony grandeur – and if Adams finds herself promoted to the Kidman League here, it’s fair to say that Isla Fisher is also bumped up in turn to the Amy Adams tier, and gives an empathetic but also slyly imitative performance as Tony’s fictional wife. For anyone who hasn’t picked up on the Hitchcock parallels thus far, Abel Korzeniowski’s anxious, string-laden score is on hand to pile-drive the point home.
This is all as glintingly unsubtle as the enormous Jeff Koons balloon-dog sculpture on Susan’s front lawn, which is no doubt exactly as Ford planned it – and even the flourishes that feel a little too on-trend always come with a mediating twist. (The opening slow-motion flurry of glitter is right out of The Neon Demon, but the procession of undulating plus-size women with sparklers and pom-poms that follows – think Jenny Saville nudes at a Trump rally – definitely isn’t.)
Everything that works in Nocturnal Animals is intoxicating, provocative, delicious – and happily, so is everything that doesn’t.