NOCTURNAL ANIMALS — Review by Susan Granger

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From fashion designer-turned-writer/director Tom Ford comes a bizarre marital thriller, as a divorced couple discover dark truths about their tortured relationship. The opening credit sequences is one of the weirdest I’ve ever seen: grotesquely obese, naked, middle-aged women writhe in billowing glitter as part of an installation at an elite Los Angeles art gallery opening, curated by Susan Morrow (Amy Adams). Afterwards, Susan’s emotionally distant husband, WASP financier Hutton (Armie Hammer), jets off to New York for an adulterous liaison – under the pretext of saving his failing business. Read on…

So Susan curls up on a couch in their luxurious, modernist mansion in the Hollywood hills to read the manuscript of a new book, titled Nocturnal Animals, sent by her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), who dedicates it to her since she’s a chronic insomniac.

The fictitious noir melodrama revolves around Tony Hastings (now-bearded Gyllenhaal) who, driving his Mercedes from Dallas to Marfa, takes a wrong turn and is ambushed on a deserted highway by three amped-up yokels who kidnap his wife (Isla Fisher) and teenage daughter (Ellie Bamber).

Working with a West Texas lawman, Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon), Tony reconstructs the terrifying violence and grim brutality that took place late that night.

Obviously an allegorical commentary on Edward’s marriage to Susan and how she jilted him, the nihilistic novel causes her to reflect on and re-evaluate both her past and present relationships.

Adapting Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan, Tom Ford (A Single Man) has assembled a stellar cast, including Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as the rednecks’ creepy ringleader, and Laura Linney, as Susan’s icy socialite mother – and his intuitive social commentary is slyly cynical.

Michael Sheen and Andrea Riseborough score an amusing cameo on the shallow privileged, noting: “Our world is a lot less painful than the real world.”

Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey delivers intoxicating, eye-catching imagery, immeasurably aided by production designer Shane Valentino and costume designer Arianne Phillips.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Nocturnal Animals is a sleek, sophisticated 7, focusing on surreal passion and suspenseful revenge.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.