"Films are subjective. It's okay if you don't like some of the greatest films of all time. We all have different taste in everything." - Anonymous
Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler, a neo-noir crime thriller/satire starring Jake Gyllenhaal, came out around this time last year. I remember the big hype surrounding this film; after its successful premiere at Toronto International Film Festival and getting extremely positive reviews from critics, the film soon became THE movie that everyone talked about. Some people even claimed that Gyllenhaal's performance was truly Oscar-worthy. It's always exciting when a film gets some Oscar buzz.
Then I saw the film and I thought it was... Good. Not great, but overall a rock solid satire on contemporary journalism, and in regards to Gyllenhaal's performance, he was great (as always, because he's one of the best actors of his generation... duh), but not quite Oscar-worthy.
This was one of those critically-acclaimed films that I had a hard time liking last year (and this is coming from a dude who absolutely loved Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher. Don't judge.) As I do with many movies, as soon as I left the theater I started analyzing this film. "Was it a well-made film? Yes. It was confidently directed by Dan Gilroy, who also penned the script. The writing was terrific. I enjoyed the dark humor, and it had more than enough satirical bites. It's beautifully shot, smoothly edited, and the score was fantastic." The filmmaker part of me was deeply in love with Nightcrawler, and I still think it's a fine piece of filmmaking. But then, the moviegoer part of me asked, "Yeah, but did you like Louis Bloom on an emotional level? No, I hated him. He was an evil sociopath. Did some of the things he does seem plausible? No, in fact, (SPOILER ALERT) I'm surprised he never got arrested, and I couldn't stop thinking 'why is he still out there filming stuff after committing some crimes? WHERE ARE THE POLICE!?!?' And lastly, do I want to buy a DVD/Blu-Ray of the movie and watch it over and over again with friends and family and a future significant other? Probably not. "
As much as I admire the film's themes and messages, this is not a gratifying film in my opinion (unless you find some enjoyment in watching a twisted, amoral character doing horrible things and becoming successful. That's cool, too.)
Here is the thing: I don't mind seeing unlikable characters as long as there are some indications of why the person is the way he/she is. Noah Baumbach is really good at that. A lot of his films feature pretentious, snobby, egotistical narcissists, but you buy these characters because you know people like that in real life. Martin Scorsese surely never judges many of his characters no matter how unsympathetic or unethical they are, and also because they are often played by great actors like De Niro or DiCaprio. However, in the case of this film, we never get to find out anything about our protagonist or his backstory. When we first see him, he kills a security guard to get... a freaking watch. He is a thief, a murderer, and you don't believe in most of the things he says because he's a full of sh*t, and yet, the film tries to make you care about him.
A lot of people got upset when the Academy decided not to include Gyllenhaal in the Best Actor category, and although they do make some questionable decisions every now and then, I have to agree with them on this one (and frankly, I'm more upset that Timothy Spall wasn't nominated... seriously, he's brilliant in Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner, a film that nobody in the U.S. saw.) Gyllenhaal was fantastic as Lou the charming sociopath, but I must say there was not much depth to the character itself. He never evolves throughout, and at the end he is still the same guy we saw in the beginning of the film, only with more money and power.
I know I'm clearly the minority here, and I'm sure the film will continue to allure many people as the time passes. All in all, I think "Nightcrawler" is a solid movie with some great performances, thought-provoking themes, and thrilling set pieces. But some of the things in the film are not believable, and in the end the social commentary aspect of the film starts to fade away. Maybe that's just me.