Fashion designer Tom Ford proves he can direct

Fashion designer Tom Ford proves he can direct

‘Nocturnal Animals’

Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal

Directed by: Tom Ford

Rated: R

 

With this, his second film, Tom Ford quells any debate about his skills as a film director. The noted fashion designer has written and directed one of the most provocative movies of the year based on the 1993 novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright, who assisted Ford in penning the screenplay.

Like his 2009 movie, “A Single Man,” this is highly stylized with each scene meticulously framed as a piece of expensive art — Ford’s distinctive style. The story involves a trilogy of storylines from the past, present and a fictional thriller that weave seamlessly into one another with deft editing from Joan Sobel.

Amy Adams, who can also be seen in the recent “Arrival,” shows off her range as Susan Morrow, an L.A art dealer trapped in a sour marriage and, in general, questioning her own happiness. A delivery to her home brings the draft of a novel called “Nocturnal Animals,” a nickname from her first husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), the author of the book. Susan hasn’t seen him in 20 years, and flashbacks reveal it didn’t end well.

With her philandering husband, Hutton (Armie Hammer), away on business trying to save a critical business deal, she has the weekend to read the book, a violent tale of Tony Hastings and his wife (Gyllenhaal and Adams look-alike Isla Fisher) traveling a desolate West Texas highway at night with their teenage daughter (Ellie Bamber) when they are run off the road by three thugs. The leader, Ray,  (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) escalates the volatile situation, and what follows is a very dark tale that Susan interprets as a possible piece of revenge fiction that is threatening to her.

Parallel to this is her increasing introspection about her relationship with Edward, mostly as she lies in bed wide-eyed with chronic insomnia. Some of the movie’s more arch scenes involve her day-to-day dealings in the L.A. art world, which Ford seems to hold in disdain, if this film is any indication. Susan is surrounded by shallow, self-important posers who all seem to think what they do is very, very important. The two scenes with Adams and Jena Malone as another art dealer say it all, and pay particular attention to the painting behind them.

By now, Edward’s novel has led to a investigation by a local law man, Bobby Andes (a very thin Michael Shannon), a chain smoking, driven cop who Tony teams up with to bring justice to his family, while Susan continues to be increasingly more disturbed with every page she turns.

Ford’s keen eye and strong sense of storytelling are enhanced by the cinematography of Seamus McGarvey, who uses cool tones for the sleek L.A. shots and a warmer, more saturated palette for the West Texas desert. The noirish quality of this piece is also greatly aided by Abel Korzeniowski’s score that evokes the work of John Barry and Bernard Hermann, Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite film composer. To its greatly deserving credit, this movie is compelling right up until the last scene and is easily one of the best movies I’ve seen all year — not only for the story itself, but as much for Ford’s vision. It’s for you to decide if the resolution is one of retribution or simply letting go. One thing is for sure: “Nocturnal Animals” will keep you awake thinking about it.

 

This movie is currently playing in Houston theaters.

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