Sunday, July 3, 2016
3 short paragraphs: Nightcrawler
2014, d. Dan Gilroy -- Netflix
It's been quite some time since I watched this film, so the finer details are pretty fuzzy. But...but...it is a powerful film. It's the proverbial trainwreck, difficult to watch and just as hard to turn away. Jake Gyllenhaal is Lewis Bloom, a smart man with poor social skills. The first question is whether he falls on the spectrum somewhere, but it turns out he's just a sociopath... dangerous things to get confused to be sure. Lewis looks for work and hustles when work doesn't come through, petty criminal acts like lifting scrap metal from a construction site and selling it. When he witnesses a car crash, it doesn't prompt Lewis into action in any way to assist, his only reaction is to watch. He watches the scene unfold, including Bill Paxton's camera crew who arrive before police and paramedics to capture the scene with a self-certified impunity. Lewis sees not only is there money to be made, but a job he seems adequately equipped for...no he doesn't have the camera, or the police scanner, or any video skills, but he has the temperament, the tenacity, and the ruthlessness to be successful.
Lewis Bloom is an awful, awful person, but not unwatchable (like his videos, he's too fascinating not to pay attention to). He gets on the scene and in personal spaces far beyond the comforts of most, doing whatever it takes to get the goods. If it bleeds, it leads. Renee Russo is a nightly news manager of a program on decline. She enables Lewis' actions because it's good for her. Lewis winds up blackmailing her into both a business and sexual partnership, one that benefits them both but puts one in control of the other in unsettling ways. Russo's given the role of both a desireable woman and a character her own age, uncommon for Hollywood films, not that we're rooting for her and Lewis as a couple. If anything it's cringe inducing his manipulation of her.
He takes on an apprentice whom he can barely contemplate paying, and expects complimentary ruthlesness, which obviously cannot be met. This is a film in which the stakes escalate, dramatically so, some by Lewis' own design. If there is no news worth selling, he's going to manufacture it, at whatever cost. Gyllenhaal creates an unemotional figure in Lewis (not emotionless, but he just doesn't really react strongly unless it benefits him to do so). He's not still or robotic, but he's dead behind the eyes...there's a soullessness that Gyllenhaal disturbingly and effectively conveys. He doesn't allow anything but ambition to drive him. It's finely crafted film that is both distressingly enjoyable and disturbing. If it speaks to anything it's that humanity's peculiar desire for Schadenfreude is perhaps better left underserved.
(we agree - David's take here)