Culture

Why Jake Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler Disappointed Me

Man, I wanted to like this movie. And I didn’t dislike it exactly. There was plenty of talent in it. Great premise, great acting all around. And the look of the thing is wonderful. It isn’t often you see Los Angeles captured without romance, just the real feeling of it. It’s a fun film to watch for that alone.

The idea is that a sociopath becomes a stringer cameraman for local TV news. The excellent Jake Gyllenhaal plays the guy who builds a business out of selling blood soaked crime and accident footage to Rene Russo‘s if-it-bleeds-it-leads morning show. Gyllenhaal’s character is a soulless lunatic stoked on internet self-help advice. Which makes for some funny and more or less incisive commentary on local news sensibility in a corporate age.

But after the first act, it just all got a bit repetitive for me. If your lead mugs a man for his watch in the first scene, we pretty much know what he is — and he never changes, just gets to be more and more of the same. That may be commentary, but it’s not actually a story. The real story, I thought, was what happens to Rene Russo, how she goes from trying to do her job to being sucked into the sociopath’s imagined reality. That story, unfortunately, ended up on the cutting room floor.

That said, it’s not boring, and there’s plenty to watch and think about. I disliked it more for failing to be what it could have been than for being what it was. Too bad though: it could’ve been terrific.

The picture gets a 95/87 on Rotten Tomatoes, so obviously a lot of people felt differently. I’d love to hear comments from anyone who disagrees.

*****
Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture