Nocturnal Animals (out now on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand) has a strong Second Amendment message: don't drive to Marfa, TX in the middle of the night unless you're armed for whatever may come. Also: teach your kids not to flip off people on the highway because you never know how they might react.
Texas native Tom Ford made his name as a fashion designer and he's now made a second feature as a writer-director, this one starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Armie Hammer. The performances are outstanding. Adams is every bit as good as she was in Arrival and two great performances in the same year probably split the votes and cost her an Oscar nomination. Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor but the Oscar nomination went to Shannon.
Nocturnal Animals looks like a crime thriller on the surface, but it's really a movie about artists. Susan (Adams) is an LA art dealer who had a brief grad-school marriage to aspiring novelist Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal). Nineteen years after their split, he sends the manuscript of his new novel and it arrives at a time when Susan is disillusioned with her high-powered, wealthy life.
As Susan reads the novel, a crime thriller set in rural Texas, the story unfolds as part of the film. Gyllenhaal plays the novel's protagonist Tony and Isla Fisher (who's probably often confused with Adams when she goes to the mall) portrays the wife. The family gets into a tangle with some bored, ruthless locals and Tony sets out to get revenge.
The movie intercuts Susan's contemporary life, action from the novel and her memories of her college-era marriage to Edward. Everything builds toward a planned meeting with Edward at the spectacular and historic Los Angeles restaurant Yamashiro.
Ford has an incredible eye for the vistas of West Texas and the unimaginable luxury of Hollywood. Every single shot is beautiful. He's also got an outsider's eye for the superficiality of exclusive lives of the 1%, even though he's spent most of his career designing the clothes that many of them wear.
Edward's novel would make an excellent thriller movie all by itself and Nocturnal Animals is an art movie that wants to engage people who don't usually watch art movies.