American Animals ★★★★½

Works *much* better for me on a second viewing, where its ungainly stop-start rhythms (as proscribed by real-life events) are less distracting due to familiarity. Also, I really choked on a certain point near the end which revives the question of the unreliability of story we're being told in an awkward manner, and while I don't think it's handled as smooth as it could be, I also don't think it's as besides the point as I did initially. On a first viewing, I distanced the themes of movie fantasy vs reality and the unreliability of memory. But on a second viewing, it's clear the latter is actually not quite what's going on at all - it's folded into the larger question of what fantasies or falsehoods we are willing to believe in order to allow ourselves to do something horrible to somebody, either directly or indirectly. And I don't know that any theme could be more trenchant at the moment.

Not that good themes make a good film, of course, but it helps. Not as much as the performances in the film, which are just killer. My favorite this time was Jared Abrahamson - while Evan Peters is fantastic, and Keoghan is reliably unsettling, Abrahamson is uncannily immersive. I rarely forgot Peters was an actor; I often forgot Abrahamson was. (And learning now he's an MMA fighter is even more shocking; I'd have never guessed that from his on-screen carriage.)