“Nocturnal Animals” screened today at Toronto Film Festival

Nocturnal Animals screened for the press today at the Toronto Film Festival (I think the ‘red carpet’ screening is this Sunday) and it received more fantastic reviews – here are a few of them:

Tom Ford’s ‘Nocturnal Animals’ Slays With Cynicism, Wins Over Toronto

Tom Ford‘s “Nocturnal Animals” premiered in Venice last week, but a dizzying amount of press and industry players showed for the Toronto International Film Festival screening of the designer-turned-director’s second feature.

The Princess of Wales theater hit capacity for the Amy Adams-Jake Gyllenhaal thriller, a screenplay Ford adapted from Austin Wright’s novel “Tony and Susan.”

Adams plays an icy modern artist named Susan who receives a package from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). It’s his debut novel, titled “Nocturnal Animals,” a harrowing story of a husband and father named Tony whose wife and daughter are abducted by a group of West Texas thugs.

Susan is happy for the distraction, thanks to a growing divide with current husband Hutton (Armie Hammer). The structure of the film gets a bit meta, vacillating between Susan reading the novel — a complete depiction of the action within the book (Gyllenhaal also plays Tony in the story-within-the-story, as Susan sublimates her ex for his lead character) — and flashbacks to how Susan and Edward met, and eventually how she came to leave him.

It’s plenty of story to chew on, but nothing short of stunning.

The present-day sequences are classic Tom Ford: steel-edged, militant glamour with no detail spared. Adams has never been so empowered, with a little help from her killer wardrobe and the authority that Ford’s aesthetic is known for.

The West Texas brutality (anchored by a menacing, if not occasionally over-the-top, Aaron Taylor-Johnson) in the novel sequences also has a decadence and raw beauty about it (don’t be surprised that Ford knows his way around a ranch).

But it’s the dryness, the world-weariness, of Ford’s script that got the strongest reaction from an equally jaded industry (which counts) — who applauded as credits went up.

A brief cameo from Michael Sheen and Andrea Riseborough, as a gay man/straight woman married couple, sent the crowd into giggling fits.

“It’s not so bad having a gay husband,” Riseborough says, dressed like a high-fashion Auntie Mame in chunky jewels and an Andre Leon Talley housecoat. “I’m certainly the only woman in his life.”

At a dinner party hosted by the pair, Sheen’s character congratulates Adams’ Susan on her recent art exhibit — naturally, she hated it. It’s junk. It contributes nothing.

Sheen deduces that art, or any of the work we are driven to do in our youth, eventually means nothing. He counsels Susan to enjoy the “absurdity of our world. It’s much less painful than the real world.”

This sort of navel-gazing, when dressed in Tom Ford and whispered about over wine, brings to vibrant life conversations one might hear in hotel bars and airport lounges at the festival itself.

A cameo from Laura Linney as Adams’ snobbish Texas matriarch (“Just wait,” Linney says with mile-high hair, “everyone eventually becomes their mother”), jokes about the incessant iPhone releases, a wink at Gyllenhaal’s heartthrob status in the gay community, jabs at the horrible plastic surgery walking around L.A. — all landed perfectly with the inside baseball crowd.

There’s a lot here for the mass audience as well — especially in the form of Michael Shannon, a police detective who reinterprets the standard wit and grit of the Western genre with an aggression and uneasiness all his own. It’s a performance that could go the distance through award season with the ease of, say, slipping on a pair of Tom Ford tortoise frames.

“Nocturnal Animals” opens in limited release on Nov. 18.

(The Wrap)

‘Nocturnal Animals’ Review: Stories of Your Life | TIFF 2016

Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals largely revolves around two truisms: people (specifically, women) eventually turn into their mothers, and that writers should write what they know. Ford has taken these two ideas and turned them into two, intertwining stories that come to the same thematic point: we can’t escape the narratives that come to define us. A woman who tries to pull away from her mother’s footsteps will eventually be sucked into the same despair. A man who was hurt by his ex-wife can only see himself within the framework of the emotional devastation. Featuring incredible performances from its entire case, Nocturnal Animals is a haunting examination of two people trapped by their past, present, and future.

Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) is a depressed art dealer who has grown distant from her husband Hutton (Armie Hammer). One day, Susan receives a package from her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal). The package contains a novel entitled “Nocturnal Animals”, and it’s dedicated to her. While Hutton is away on business, Susan begins reading the book, which is about family man Tony Hastings (also Gyllenhaal) who, while on a road trip with his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and daughter India (Ellie Bamber), gets attacked by three violent rednecks led by Ray Marcus (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). After Tony’s wife and daughter are kidnapped by the rednecks, he enlists the help of officer Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) to help find his lost family. Meanwhile, back in the real world, Susan begins to flashback to her life with Edward and thinking about how their marriage fell apart.

The film starts at an interesting place after some shocking opening credits that feature naked obese women happily dancing as part of Susan’s new art exhibit. It’s not so much that the dancing women have meaning as much as Susan, like an addict who has been rendered numb over time, is trying to shock her system awake. We eventually learn she’s an artist who never pursued her creativity so she decided to run an art gallery instead. She’s a woman who’s trying to find meaning in art, and yet she’s spent almost twenty years running from the shape of her own story, which she finally has to confront in the form of Edward’s book.

Through the Edward/Tony narrative, we see the pain that has consumed him in the intervening years. Rather than tell an autobiographical tale, Edward has transferred his raw emotions into a dark, twisted revenge narrative. He’s not only baring his soul to Susan; he’s showing her the soul she left him with after she ripped apart their marriage. By looking at Edward’s story figuratively rather than literally, Susan begins to feel the emotional cost of her actions, and, even more tragically, that she was perhaps fated to make those choices because of her similarities to her selfish mother (Laura Linney).

Normally, when a fiction is nestled inside a movie, that fiction carries less weight. It’s not “real”, so it doesn’t matter as much. Ford subverts this expectation by making Edward’s “fiction” as real as Susan’s life. We’re looking at two damaged people through two lenses, but they’re occupying the same emotional space even if they haven’t inhabited the same physical space in 19 years. There’s a great swell of pity from Ford for his characters, but also a sense of disgust at how they’ve treated each other. Susan and Edward are both tragic figures, and yet they’re also partially responsible for the narratives they’ve constructed.

Ford’s direction is, like his previous feature A Single Man, immaculate. Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography is striking, and composer Abel Korzeniowski once again provides his director with a brooding, sorrowful score. As one would expect from a fashion designer, Ford outfits his characters beautifully, but the fashion always helps illustrate the characters. The stark, clean lines of Susan’s expensive wardrobe betray a woman whose current life is tidy because it’s hollow, and Tony’s clothing eventually becomes simple and direct as his worldview narrows to getting revenge against Ray.

But where Nocturnal Animals shines brightest is with its performances. Between Arrival and Nocturnal Animals, Amy Adams should get nominated for Best Actress for both films and win both Oscars in a tie. The film basically asks her to play two roles: the optimistic grad student who believes she can break away from her family and live happily ever after with aspiring novelist Edward; and the struggling gallery owner in a loveless marriage who regrets what her life has become. Adams is one of the finest actors working today, and her work here is among her finest.

Shannon is the other standout in a cast where there isn’t a weak link. He plays Bobby with a fascinating mix of tired resignation, grim determination, and almost comical indifference. Ford and Shannon never let Bobby simply sit as a good guy who’s aiding Tony. He’s the weary traveler who has seen all of life’s injustices and on the one hand he’s willing to accept it, and on the other hand he wants to rage against what’s been done to Tony. You never quite know what to expect from Bobby in a given scene, and yet the performance always rings with pathos, humanity, and even humor.

Nocturnal Animals didn’t hit me with the same emotional gut-punch as A Single Man, and yet it feels like a richer, more complex, and ambitious film that I think will stay with me long after this morning’s screening. Ford has taken the fatalism of the revenge genre and spun it into a reflection of regret and bitterness. It’s a movie that gets under your skin, into your bones, and leaves you feeling as trapped as its two doomed protagonists.

Rating: A-

Nocturnal Animals opens December 9th.


3 Takeaways From Day One of the Toronto Film Festival

The Famous Designer
Now you might think that Tom Ford already proved he’s a serious filmmaker with his first movie, A Single Man, his moving Christopher Isherwood adaptation that featured Colin Firth’s greatest performance. But the question here was: Could Ford avoid the famous sophomore slump? Judging from this morning’s response, he’s done more than that with Nocturnal Animals, his ambitious psychological thriller in the vein of David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and Stanley Kubrick. As cool and dark as A Single Man was warm and likable, this hugely watchable hall-of-mirrors movie interweaves two stories, one nested inside the other. In the outer one, a successful L.A. gallery owner (Adams), who has dumped her struggling-artist first husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) for a rich dude played by Armie Hammer. One day she gets the manuscript of a novel written by her ex and starts reading. That’s the second, inner story, a ghastly tale of West Texas mayhem (also starring Gyllenhaal), which we come to realize is her ex’s commentary on, and an act of revenge for, the way she’d treated him. From its surreal opening images of obese women dancing naked in slow motion through the cycle of crime and retribution, this second film is bigger and more complicated than Ford’s debut. Although the divisive story and finely tuned style have their detractors—the movie is so heavily designed as to feel slightly claustrophobic—Nocturnal Animals suggests that Ford may actually be more willing to take big risks as a filmmaker than as a designer.


Toronto: Academy Voters May Resist ‘Nocturnal Animals’

In fashion designer Tom Ford’s sophomore filmmaking effort, supporting actor Michael Shannon gives the standout performance.

Nocturnal Animals, Tom Ford’s sophomore directorial effort, arrived in North America on Friday, a week after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, and seven years after his astonishing debut A Single Man. The new film, like the older one, is aesthetically appealing and features some top-notch performances — especially Oscar nominee Michael Shannon’s colorful supporting turn as a West Texas lawman — but it also is opaque,in terms of what it’s trying to say and plays like the sort of genre film one might stumble upon on Cinemax, which will make it a tough sell to the Academy.

The drama, which Ford adapted from Austin Wright’s novel Tony and Susan, starts off bizarrely — with a prolonged sequence of obese nude women dancing in what turns out to be an art gallery — and never really regains its footing. It centers around the art gallery’s owner, a wealthy but depressed woman, played by Oscar nominee Amy Adams, and a long-ago story recounted in a manuscript she receives from her ex-husband, played by Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal. It then cuts back-and-forth between the two stories. Shannon, the film’s only truly likable character, factors in to the latter account.

Not all films that resonate with the Academy are about appealing or sympathetic people — 1972’s Deliverance, from which Nocturnal Animals perhaps borrows a few elements, is an example of one film whose characters weren’t sympathetic, but it still wound up with a best picture Oscar nom. However, when a film does overcome that sort of obstacle, it is usually easily decipherable. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Nocturnal Animals, which Focus will release Nov. 23.


Tom Ford’s ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a Beautiful — and Brutal — ‘Exploration of Masculinity’

Before Tom Ford kicked off New York Fashion Week with his calendar-disrupting, see-now-buy-now show, the designer thrilled discerning movie critics and influencers at the Venice Film Festival premiere of his new movie, “Nocturnal Animals.” (As in, there’s already Oscar buzz months before the official premiere on Nov. 18.) Based on the book by Tony and Susan by Austin Wright, the film is only the multi-talented designer’s second effort in writing and directing, following his acclaimed “A Single Man” in 2009, which earned star Colin Firth a BAFTA Award and multiple nominations, including Oscar.

Just two days after his NYFW showing, Ford continued his multi-genre, hot-ticket streak at the Toronto International Film Festival on Friday. The line for the 9 a.m. press and industry screening at the Princess of Wales Theatre wrapped around the block by 8:30 a.m. No one wanted to miss out on the story-within-a-story film about Susan Morrow (an amazing Amy Adams), a rich (on the surface) and unhappy woman who receives a manuscript written by her estranged ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (an also amazing Jake Gyllenhaal), who dedicated the novel to her.

While Susan’s sketchy husband Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer) is away for the weekend, she reads the book about Tony (below, also played by Gyllenhaal), which then plays out in the film. During a menacing, late-night road rage standoff, Tony stands by helplessly as his wife (played by Isla Fisher in a genius casting move, as she’s oft-mistaken for Amy Adams) and daughter (Elie Bamber) are kidnapped by a trio of backwoods-y joyriders (including a terrifying Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

“One of the themes of the film that hit home personally for me was the exploration of masculinity in our culture. Our heroes Tony and Edward do not possess the stereotypical traits of masculinity that our culture often expects, yet in the end they both triumph,” Ford says in a statement. “As a boy growing up in Texas, I was anything but what was considered classically masculine and I suffered for it. I empathize with the characters of Tony and Edward and their perseverance speaks to me.”

Like “A Single Man,” “Nocturnal Animals” is visually stunning with beautiful, lush cinematography and saturated colors that you just want to luxuriate in — from Susan’s moody, dark eye makeup, lip and vampy nails (essentially her armor) to the parched, sun-drenched desolate desert as Tony desperately searches for help at dawn. The color red was noticeably consistent throughout flashback scenes of 20-something Edward and Susan, a bright billboard in the otherwise sand-hued desert, symbolic furniture (no spoilers here) and Adams’s, Fisher’s and Bamber’s distractingly gorgeous ginger hair.

For his sophomore movie-making outing, Ford reassembled key players from his 2009 movie-making team, including costume designer Arianne Phillips, who received a BAFTA nomination for “A Single Man.”

“[Her] eye is flawless,” says Ford in the statement. “I often find myself asking Arianne questions on set about performance, shot angles and many other things as she is not only a talented costume designer — and to my mind, one of the best — but she has great judgement and taste. Her opinion is always invaluable to me.”

As one might expect from a film with both Phillips, who also creates concert tour looks for Madonna, and a renowned fashion designer behind the scenes, the costumes skillfully support the both physically and mentally brutal (especially at 9 a.m.) tale. From Susan’s immaculate and also armor-like art-gallerist wardrobe to Detective Bobby Andes’s (Michael Shannon, above far right) cowboy-lawman corduroy jacket and hat ensemble to Susan’s Texan socialite mother’s (a gloriously bouffant-ed Laura Linney) layered pearl and Chanel-esque skirt suit. Actually, the look is probably Chanel considering Ford thanked the fashion house and Karl Lagerfeld, plus a litany of other fashion designers, including Alexander Wang, Fausto Puglisi and Proenza Schouler in his liner notes.

To adapt Wright’s 1993 novel to modern day, Ford took creative license in changing the location of the harrowing story-within-the-story to stay relevant to our millennial reliance on (and addiction to) smartphones. The move is interestingly in line with Ford’s frustration with smartphone- and social media-fueled thirst for immediacy from the media (and the public) when it comes to showing his fashion collections. After all, in a power move, the designer banned photographers from his super-secret spring 2011 runway and decided to show his fall 2016 collection in fall 2016 — beating the ‘grammers and Snapchatters to their game.

“I chose to locate the story in West Texas — the original story takes place in the Northeast — as there are still places there where one could imagine that there would be no cell service,” says Ford, who spent his childhood in the Longhorn state. “It is also a part of the world that I know well, and I subscribe to the old adage: write about what you know.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.