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Tom Ford makes angst stylish in ‘Nocturnal Animals’

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Gyllenhaal and Shannon in Nocturnal Animals.
Mike D'Angelo

Three and a half stars

Nocturnal Animals Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon. Directed by Tom Ford. Rated R. Opens Friday citywide.

Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals offers two movies in one. The first, set in the real world, stars Amy Adams as Susan, an art-gallery owner who seems trapped, as rich and successful movie characters so often are, by her luxe lifestyle, and by a seemingly loveless marriage to a businessman played by Armie Hammer. The second dramatizes, within Susan’s imagination, a not-yet-published manuscript that she’s reading. Written by her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), with whom she’s been long out of touch, the novel, also called Nocturnal Animals, tells the deeply upsetting story of a man (envisioned by Susan as Edward, and thus also played by Gyllenhaal) whose wife (imagined as Isla Fisher, who’s often confused with Amy Adams—a sublime in-joke) and teenage daughter (Ellie Bamber) are abducted by several rednecks who force the family’s car off the road late one night.

Gyllenhaal’s half of the movie, which also features Michael Shannon as a hard-bitten Texas cop not inclined to play by the rules, is far more compelling for its own sake than is Adams’ half, which involves a whole lot of glamorous moping. It’s the way the two halves intersect, however, that truly resonates, provocatively suggesting that creativity often functions as an upscale, passive-aggressive act of revenge. Ford, who made his debut with 2009’s A Single Man, isn’t yet as accomplished a film director as he is a fashion designer, but he’s getting there. –Mike D’Angelo

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