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Worst films of 2016: ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is fashion without sense
Amy Adams stars in writer/director Tom Ford’s (overrated?) NOCTURNAL ANIMALS. Credit: Merrick Morton/Focus Features

Worst films of 2016: ‘Nocturnal Animals’ is fashion without sense

Last week might have been the Oscars, but let’s be honest – not all the films from 2016 were winners. In fact, some were just plain awful. Which is why during the month of March, we here at The Daily’s film section are going to be looking back, with love, at some of our least favorite films from 2016. This week, we will be reviewing the Academy Award nominated “Nocturnal Animals,” which our critic Rey Barcelo found not only overrated, but downright toxic.

“Nocturnal Animals”

“Nocturnal Animals” is to film what knockoff handbags are to the fashion industry – it looks glamorous, but on closer inspection, it’s just a cheap imitation of the real thing. Make no mistake: “Nocturnal Animals,” the sophomore feature from fashion designer Tom Ford, is every bit as glamorous as Ford’s clothing line. But in transitioning from fashion to film, he fails to understand that great films, unlike great clothing, have something underneath them.

“Nocturnal Animals” is not a film so much as a two-hour fashion show in which vapid elites strike hollow poses in luxurious settings. His characters strut and fret their hour on the screen, but their sound and fury signifies less than nothing.

Case in point: Amy Adams plays Susan Morrow, a VERY UNHAPPY gallery owner who sulks her way around LA’s art scene with her eye candy of a second husband (Armie Hammer). As if her entire performance weren’t enough to convince us of her unhappiness, every line she speaks is literally taken from the DSM’s chapter on depression: “I’m unhappy. I’m just really, really unhappy,” she says. (Tom Ford, in his brilliance, wrote the screenplay as well. Most likely on the back of a napkin.)

Susan’s unhappiness gives way to EVEN MORE UNHAPPINESS when she receives a novel called “Nocturnal Animals” from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). The novel’s protagonist (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) is driving with his wife and daughter through a New Yorker’s idea of Texas when his car is stopped by a group of redneck stereotypes. If you thought “I’m just really, really unhappy” was stellar writing, you’ll be blown away by this confrontation, which takes up 16 goddamn pages of a 110-page script and features taunts like “Hey, vagina boy! Vagina boy!”

Up until this point, “Nocturnal Animals” is tolerable. Not great, not even good, but not reprehensible. But Ford, not content to just make a bad film, decides to make an unconscionable one. He carelessly tosses in violence against women, rape and abortion as if they were merely adornments on one of his dresses. I don’t want to summarize the rest of the film, partially because it’s so meaningless and poorly done that summary serves no purpose, but mostly because I don’t want to give Ford a platform. Misogyny, even when perpetrated accidentally and dressed in the finest clothing, is still misogyny.

To be fair to Ford, I don’t think he’s a misogynist. I just think he’s an idiot. In striving to make his film as moody as possible, he mistakes suffering for sensuality, and his women pay the price of this error. In Fordland, women who obtain abortions deserve to be hunted down by their ex-husbands. In Fordland, mothers and daughters serve no purpose except to be raped and slaughtered – and objectified even after their deaths.

If that’s the way Ford thinks, then count me out. I’ll take a director who actually cares for and understands women (Almodovar, Bergman, Haynes and Demy come to mind) over Ford and his feeble femmes fatales any day. To Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal: I recommend you get a better agent. And to you, Mr. Ford, I recommend you stop objectifying women on screen and return to the world of fashion, where you can objectify them on the runway.

 

Contact Rey Barcelo at rbarcelo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Rey Barceló

Rey Barceló is a sophomore studying Computer Science (and trying to pick up a Film minor along the way)! He hails from sunny SoCal, but spent far more time watching films than going to the beach. Happiest when immersed in the psychedelic sounds of Tame Impala, the invented worlds of Jorge Luis Borges, and the Criterion Collection, he can usually be found in the Media and Microtext Center of Green Library, in between Paul Thomas Anderson and Ingmar Bergman. He recommends "Hausu" (1977) for its gritty depiction of carnivorous-piano-related deaths and "Cemetery of Splendour" (2015) for its action-packed thrills.