Jake Gyllenhaal has proven himself an excellent actor in a variety of roles, from October Sky’s Homer Hickam to Donnie Darko to Jarhead (an underrated favorite of mine). From Zodiac to Brokeback Mountain to End of Watch (He’s also been in two delightful crapfests, Bubble Boy, The Day After Tomorrow & Prince of Persia. The former sweetly awful, the middle absurd, the latter awful but pocket lining.). Point being, the man can, and has, filled a wide range of characters in strong films. None quite like this. He genuinely freaked me out in Nightcrawler. I’ll try to put my finger on how such an engrossing performance could not completely uplift an uneven film.
Should I pay to see it?
Yes, if you are a more than casual movie fan. If not, this might be a bit intense for a night out. This might not be the best ‘popcorn flick.’
Gyllenhaal gives a remarkable performance worthy of any Oscar buzz. As Lou Bloom, the actor spends the entirety of the film (and he has quite a bit of facetime, part of the creep factor) unsettling you. He morphs. Speaking with short, crafted staccato sentences, Bloom pulls you in with an unnerving oddness you spend a bit figuring out – then a whole lot of movie being horrified. Not necessarily evil, but not a good person, Gyllenhaal’s eyes pop at the viewer barely masking the madness under a careful, simple, measured exterior. There were several moments you could hear the theater expressing disbelief at the sheer creepiness of Bloom’s facial contortions, often paired with brutal lines. One wonders if Gyllenhaal spent time in the mirror practicing some of these movements and quirks. They mesmerize. Lucky for the film he is so directly focused upon, because with the exception of the required nod to Bill Paxton being in the film (truly, excellent in any & everything), the rest of the cast is… well… forgettable.
Lou Bloom, however, does not want to be forgotten. You will have trouble shaking Gyllenhaal’s performance when the credits roll.
Could I see it with a date?
I guess? I would strongly recommend against this for both your sakes, though. The film really sets the mood for… nothing. You will both walk away feeling ill-at-ease, in the best case scenario. Nightcrawler delivers in making you uncomfortable about our current media climate, if not humans of the world in general (and certainly of Los Angeles – Boom. Roasted.). But while there are some moments where you will laugh, this is not so much a biting satire or black comedy as an unrelenting presentation of increasing awfulness. You laugh because you are uncomfortable or flabbergasted. And at Jake Gyllenhaal’s magical madman faces.
Here is where the film does not completely win me over. I spent a large portion of the movie, and time writing this piece, trying to describe what the movie presents and/or represents. Not really a dark comedy, the movie has more of an Eli Roth horrific realism in its offering a bleak view of society. I do not mean to compare the two directors directly (natch), that would be offensive to Dan Gilroy. Gilroy’s got a message no doubt. However instead of letting the film’s dark, bleak take somewhat speak for itself, as the movie goes on, you feel a bit like a nail. Nightcrawler bashes you in the head with severe awfulness, and turns a scope on our fascination with such nastiness. Couple this with some puzzling (if not laughable) dialogue towards the end and part of me was screaming “WE GET IT!” as the movie climaxes. While shivering as Gyllenhaal’s mad-eyed stare delivered another crazy line.
Could I see it with my mother?
Nope. Nope. Nope. Do not. Unless your mother is one of these siren-chasing ‘videographers.’ Then I guess you two could bond?
This film does not hesitate on the gory details. I should make this point clear. This is not 1980’s jets of Kool Aid being squirted out mess. Rather the movie serves up carefully timed, shockingly realistic horrors. This realism makes it difficult for a viewer, such as myself, to brace for impact. So captivated by Gyllenhaal’s performance or Rene Russo’s (long time, no see, ma’am) realistic scowly awfulness that when the movie gets to the graphic, you have very little ability to disconnect yourself, as we often do. This means the oddly comic moments don’t quite ever land as they should because the audience is still thinking about the man with the sliced artery they just showed. I am not the squeamish type. Nightcrawler’s presentation of such real, such terrible, such graphic life just made for an uncomfortable experience. So imagine what your mother would think.
Nightcrawler can be recommended for Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance alone, but also serves as a tightly constructed, well twisted world. If you are the type who likes to follow award-winning performances and buzz (such as my cohort here), this movie should no doubt be seen ASAP. If you can appreciate well-made movies that leaves you feeling miserable for the craft, you should figure out whether you want to see this in theaters. For everyone else? You might want to brace yourself. Or go watch some cartoons.