Film Friday #205

Nightcrawler (2014)

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) lives on the fringes of society eking out a living through petty theft and panhandling, while trying and failing to find a job. One day he comes across a car accident being filmed by a camera crew. He overhears Joe Loader (Bill Paxton) negotiating the sale of the footage with a news channel and it’s like a light bulb goes off in his brain. Lou quickly steals a bike and exchanges it for a video camera and a police scanner and plans his new life as a “nightcrawler”. Although his initial footage is amateurish, he quickly develops a reputation for being willing to bypass the moral and ethical concerns other cameramen have which makes him the darling of a sensationalist local news station. In order to expand his operation, Lou hires Rick (Riz Ahmed) a young homeless man as his assistant, using his desperation to exploit him. The further Lou is willing to go the more indispensable he becomes  to aging news editor, Nina Romina (Renee Russo), whose flagging career lives and dies by the ratings, pushing her into an uneasy alliance with a man she finds both repulsive and irresistible. As Lou starts to manipulate crime scenes for his own benefit it becomes clear that he will stop at nothing to get to the top no matter who gets hurt in the process. I will come straight out and say that I loved this film. Gyllenhaal gives a career-defining performance that is absolutely mesmerising. While the true nature of Lou’s character unfolds slowly throughout the film, there is an immediate feeling that there is something off about him, something which is dark and unsettling, adding to a film which manages to be thrilling and occasionally surprisingly amusing. I particularly liked the decision not to give Lou a back story because it makes him that much creepier and adds to the mystery that surrounds him. He has no friends and no family and occasionally hints at an unconventional upbringing but nothing is explicitly explained. I liked the fact that the story explored the idea of a society that would allow someone like Lou to thrive, which is personified in a scene where he manipulates Nina into an unsavory agreement, which may be the only thing that could save her career. Again we never actually see this agreement acted out but the one mention Lou makes of it makes it much more sinister than if it were shown. Praise must also be given to Ahmed to injects an enormous amount of emotional resonance into a character who could easily have come across as two dimensional and sentimental and Russo is a perfect example of the output of a society obsessed with youth. Definitely worth making the money to buy a ticket.  5/5

Lou was noticeably unhappy to hear that his favourite contestant had been kicked out of the X-Factor

Lou was noticeably unhappy to hear that his favourite contestant had been kicked out of the X-Factor

Nymphomaniac Vol. II (2013)

In the second installment of Nymphomaniac, Joe (Charlotte Ginsbery/Stacy Martin) continues telling her life story to Steligman (Stellan Skarsgard) picking up at the point where she is now living with (and faithful to) Jerome (Shia LaBoeuf). Although Joe enjoys Jerome’s company, it’s not long before she no longer derives any sexual satisfaction from him or anyone else. Understandably this begins to drive Joe insane. I imagined this being similar to a heroin addict constantly jonesing for a fix but getting no buzz no matter how many hits they do. After the birth of their son, Marcel, Jerome gives Joe permission to seek sexual satisfaction from others and she embarks on more an more risky and debauched adventures, including developing a relationship with a dominant male partner (Jamie Bell). Eventually Joe’s desperation leads her to put everything she has gained into jeaopardy with devastating results. I felt like this part of the film really worked and followed on well from the original story taking a darker turn but still exploring the nature of addiction. Gainsbourg continues to give a fascinating performance and I found Bell’s character to be surprisingly sexy as well as somewhat terrifying. I was less sure about the second half of the film, which follows Joe’s career as a debt collector working with L (Willem Defoe). Although this story line along with Joe’s corruption and ultimate affection for P (Mia Goth) allowed her to come full circle it kind of felt like director, Lars von Trier, just wanted to find somewhere to wedge Defoe into the film because he likes working with him. Overall less powerful than the first film but still a very interesting watch. 3.5/5

You're a handsome woman to be sure, but I can't quite imagine you on the cover of Vogue

You’re a handsome woman to be sure, but I can’t quite imagine you on the cover of Vogue

Stand by Me (1986)

After overhearing that body of a missing boy is hidden near the train tracks, twelve year old Gordie LaChance (Wil Wheaton) and his three best friends, troubled tearaway, Chris (River Phoenix), myopic war-obsessed Teddy (Corey Feldman) and chubby Vern (Jerry O’Connell) take off on a twenty-mile trip to find him, convinced they will be heralded as heroes. Along the way they go through a series of adventures, which will shape their lives on their journey from boys to men. Exploring parental expectations, grief, abuse and nature of friendship and courage, Stand By Me is one of the greatest coming of age tales ever told. All four boys give outstanding performances but it is Phoenix who absolutes shines as a boy curtailed not by his own limitations but rather by the somewhat unfair perception that has been developed about him. Funny, sweet and extremely touching this is a must watch for anyone who thinks back fondly to their early teens and the intense life-changing friendships they developed. Once again Stephen King proves that he is a master-storyteller – for me more so when writing non-horror. 5/5

So it's agreed, we'll meet up tonight and kill Justice Beaver

So it’s agreed, we’ll meet up tonight and kill Justice Beaver

Kill Your Darlings (2013)

At the very start of the burgeoning beat generation, Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) is accepted into Colombia University leaving behind his mentally fragile mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and kind  but overwhelmed father (David Cross). Here he meets and is immediately fascinated with Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan). Lucien introduces Allen to his circle, including the older and somewhat creepy David Kammerer (Michael C. Hall). As Allen starts to fall in love with Lucien he realises that his relationship with David involves a sinister level of obsession that Lucien has manipulated to his own advantage, trapping him in a desperate position that can only end in destruction. I wanted to get into this but I just couldn’t. Possibly it’s because Radcliffe just isn’t that good and actor or it was a bit too pretentious but I ended up bored and distracted throughout. I’m a big Dane DeHaan fan and as usual he turns in a great performance but not even he or one of the most graphic gay sex scenes I’ve seen in a mainstream film could save this lackluster biopic. 2/5

It's called a high five... try it, you'll like it

It’s called a high five… try it, you’ll like it

12 Comments

  1. Stand By Me is one of those films that never gets old.

  2. I’m glad you loved Nightcrawler so much. 🙂 I really really was hoping to…! Not seen the others except for, of course, Stand By Me. LOVE THAT ONE SO MUCH. It’s my most-watched film. Yes, Phoenix is amazing. Such a sad loss…

  3. A nice mix as ever. Some great films out this month.

  4. Most everyone has been raving about this Nightcrawler film! I feel like I need to see it.

    I didn’t see Kill Your Darlings, but I’ve been wanting to. I actually really like Daniel Radcliffe! Haha. Sorry to hear it wasn’t the greatest of films.

    1. Abbi

      I loved Nightcrawler. I was on the edge of my seat throughout.

      I don’t think Kill Your Darlings was necessarily a bad film, I just couldn’t connect with it.

  5. Nightcrawler sounds verrrry interesting

    1. Abbi

      I would highly recommend it but then I love a completely f-ed up character!

  6. Really excited to see Nightcrawler glad that you gave it a good rating. Agree with you on Nympho II, it was rather lackluster in comparison to the first. Also Kill Your Darlings had me bored as well. Sad because it could have been a really cool movie.

    1. Abbi

      I’m not sure what the problem was with Kill Your Darlings but something just didn’t work. Looking forward to your review of Nightcrawler! 🙂

      1. I know I think it was just overall BORING!

  7. Great reviews! Really looking forward to Nightcrawler!

    1. Abbi

      Looking forward to your review!

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