Review - Nocturnal Animals - Ford goes for style over substance
Cert: 16; Now showing
Published 07/11/2016 | 02:30
Susan (Amy Adams) is married to Hutton (Armie Hammer), whom she left Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) for. Her character initially reads like a Woody Allen doodle - an air-kissing, glass box-dwelling dealer of horrid modern art whose husband is cheating on her. Out of the blue, she gets a manuscript in the post from Edward, who ditched law school to be a writer.
The novel - entitled Nocturnal Animals - tells of Tony (Gyllenhaal again), his partner (Isla Fisher) and their teenage daughter being beset by nasty Texan rednecks on a lonely highway. The feeble Tony is quickly disarmed by Aaron Taylor-Johnson's ringleader and left in the desert as his family are driven away to be raped and murdered. With the help of a terminally ill police lieutenant (Michael Shannon playing Michael Shannon), a revenge mission is undertaken.
Susan leans back after each chapter. Echoes of her relationship with Edward are somehow hiding within the unsettling tale.
Some were calling director Tom Ford a dynamic and bold auteur after his 2009 debut, A Single Man, saw the fashion mogul open his Hollywood account in mesmeric, if self-indulgent, style. This follow-up, however, is glib and uninvolving, a story-within-a-story yawn that merits a star apiece for Adams and Seamus McGarvey's cinematography. Ford is obsessed with cod-David Lynch symbolism especially with the female characters whom he arranges grotesquely like props in one of his naff Vanity Fair covers (can someone please explain the daft intro to me?). At core level, the narrative arc (as adapted from Austin Wright's source novel) is too slight to justify the meandering menace preceding it. 2 Stars
Cert: 15A; Now showing
It is made clear from the outset that we're not as smart as Christian Wolff. Not only is Ben Affleck's sullen protagonist able to pick apart dense numerical labyrinths, he's also outwitting everyone, from the Treasury Department to major crime syndicates. He also comes ready-packaged with the muscle, marksmanship and wiles of a taller Jason Bourne.
Unlike us mere mortals, Christian would have no problem keeping track of the many spinning plates in Gavin O'Connor's cluttered thriller. We know Christian is some manner of ass-kicking loner connected to the mob. Next thing, he's scribbling calculations across whole walls to follow the lost money in a tech firm like a normal accountant, albeit a gifted one. Here, he forms a bond with Anna Kendrick. Elsewhere, there's a Treasury Dept agent with a murky past working under JK Simmons's chief. Add Jon Bernthal's cocky hitman and Christian's flashback sequences into the mix and actual accountancy starts to seem breezy by comparison, which is saying something.
As the autistic number cruncher-cum-action man, Affleck is perfectly cool and peculiar. Kendrick is a much-needed dose of humility in the proceedings. For the second time this week, we commend the lens work of Ulsterman Seamus McGarvey while the inventive flourishes in Bill Dubuque's script drag it away from schlocky crime-novel tendencies.
The issue is that O'Connor (Pride and Glory, Jane Got a Gun) tries to fit everything in instead of trimming the surplus. 3 Stars
Hilary A White
A Street Cat Named Bob
Cert 12A; Now showing
In 2007 James Bowen was struggling with heroin addiction and homelessness. Back in London following teenage years in Australia after his parents' divorce, he was trying to make ends meet by busking and doing his best to stay on a methadone programme in order to be given housing. It's not an easy battle especially because he has alienated everyone close to him. But he has a social worker who believes in him and gets him a flat; there he finds a stray cat he calls Bob and this leads to him meeting a new friend and creating a busking act.
In 2012 Bowen signed a book deal to tell his story, it sold more than a million copies in the UK. Director Roger Spottiswoode, a true and/or uplifting story veteran, takes charge of telling the story on film and he does so dutifully. Luke Treadaway plays Bowen and does a good job of demonstrating an addict's vulnerability. His friend/love interest Belle (Ruta Gadmintas) is a well-intentioned but annoying character and her oddly balanced emotional input is perhaps why the story doesn't work so well on film. It is uplifting but the emotion is told rather than shown so it lacks real depth. Yes, it is worthy but it is also a little underwhelming. As someone who never watches cat videos on YouTube I may be just missing something cat video fans will savour. 2 Stars
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