Kat’s review published on Letterboxd :
Tom Ford sits at his desk in his very nice house and a very nice suit that cost a lot of money. What is a good plot for a film? He thinks to himself. Ah, I know. I'm going to show that true artistic expression is good but we live in a harsh society that privileges money and the only art that makes an impact is the art that reflects this, so it's empty and ugly and obnoxious.
I'm interested in seeing that film. I was interested in seeing Nocturnal Animals. Nocturnal Animals isn't that film. Or, Nocturnal Animals is that film, but the way it goes about it is by saying, inadvertently or not, that women's bodies belong to men.
Here's the plot (some spoilers): Amy Adams plays Susan, the owner of an art gallery (but not really an artist because, we're told, she's too afraid to be creative) who gets sent a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward, who she hasn't spoken to in 19 years. She has a new husband, but he's as superficial and concerned about money as she is. They have some friends, who aren't plot relevant but I wanted to mention because Michael Sheen is a great actor with 2 lines of dialogue in this. The script fascinates Susan as much as it horrifies her. She spends the entire movie reading it, while we see it play on screen. Jake is Tony, who takes his wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter on a trip in West Texas. They get terrorised by rednecks (notably Aaron Taylor Johnson). The rednecks kidnap, rape and kill the two women - which is my favourite way to bring forth male pain too, Tom! Jake gets help from dying cop Bobby (Michael Shannon) to find the perpetrators of the crime.
While reading the manuscript, Susan remembers her past. She was young and idealistic and wanted to marry Edward, but her conservative mother (played by Laura fucking Linney, who's literally ten years older than Amy Adams) says it's a bad idea because he's beneath her. Amy Adams says she doesn't want to be like her mother. Her mother says to her "We all become our mothers in the end." (At this point, I'd like to remind you that this film was written by a man) (more spoilers for the end of this paragraph) Susan remembers how badly she treated Edward. She, and how dare she!, stopped being in love with him, and decided that they were going in different directions. Also, our subtle director Tom Ford tacks on, she cheats on him and gets an abortion, which prompts her to say "I will live to regret this."
Tom Ford -- I too hate Damien Hirst! I find his art meaningless! On the other hand, I'm not really endeared by the way you find beauty in the body of dead women. I'm also not really endeared by the way you find using fat women's bodies as metaphors for our consumerist society cool.
If all this wasn't bad enough, and if somehow you can look past the glaring misogyny, the movie is full of hamfisted symbolism - consider Amy Adams, standing in front of a huge painting that reads REVENGE. She can't remember buying it. There's a scene where as someone is shot in the manuscript Susan is reading, a bird flies into her window and dies. Did I mention there's a bit where Amy Adams wipes off her dark lipstick (and her lips look nice and pure like they did when she was young!) before she goes to see Edward?
Michael Shannon and Aaron Taylor Johnson breathe life into this, giving the only actually good two performances of substance in the film. The only problem with that is that they're both acting against Jake Gyllenhaal, who is in Tom Ford land, whereas they're both in some kind of grimy southern trashterpiece.
Nocturnal Animals didn't just disappoint me, it infuriated me, and I wish that all these actors who I really like hadn't agreed to be in this sexist piece of super-stylised shit.