Nightcrawler

As a critic of the media, this film doesn't so much as subtly highlight the immortality of our news broadcasters, rather it points to them in a shaming, flashing, neon finger. We get it. Media is bad. Very bad if your state-side and I have to say, it did make me grateful for the less sensationalist and balanced view of Auntie. In a world where a shady metal merchant won't hire 'a thief' but the local cable network will snatch his hand off, we wonder who's the true criminal?

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a petty thief eeking out a living in LA during the day, while ingesting hours of motivational business talk online at night. He stumbles into a new career of being a 'stinger' crawling LA at night with a camcorder to capture the latest horrid crimes on film to peddle out to the local news broadcasters. Desperate news director Nina Romina (Rene Russo) can't resist the chance to boost her station's ratings, so encourages Lou to seek out new material at increasingly dangerous lengths.

This film starts so well, it creates a wonderful atmosphere about LA drawing a craving from me to return again and explore this exotic city. You really get a sense of summer heat, mystery and an oppressiveness which makes this coastal metropolis an appealing location. Like Drive, Nightcrawler starts by making LA another character in the film, as we are guided through a series of impressive ariel shots before landing in closely on Gyllenhall stealing metal, metaphorically on the wrong side of the tracks. Unlike Drive, the cinematography in Nightcrawler seemed to die out to a series of stock imagery which left me feeling a bit 'meh'. If I was feeling generous I might think it was a comment about how the media drains authenticity from it's world. No. I think it's just lazy editing.  

Rene Russo's character is sadly a bit one dimensional: flat and singular in her purpose in the movie. The risk of losing her job in the ratings war eclipses her need for professional journalism. Her remit is to sell a version of the news that sinks deep into the public's morbid curiosity. As she states matter of factly, every story is 'a woman in a rich neighbourhood running screaming down the street'. We can't criticise her cynical and depressing style to broadcasting, as sadly it's one that's lapped up by so many consumers. 

Gyllenhaal has a tough role in this film, as his character is constantly playing a character. The affable, friendly local man, who works hard, and repeats business speak mantra like a robot, exposing the benefits of the American Dream like a blind cult follower. There's only one line that gives away his obvious real personality when he responds to his co-worker that "what if it isn't that I don't get people. I just don't like them." I really feel he needed more scenes by himself where we could glimpse an insight into his true sociopathic mind. Occasionally watering a plant, doesn't really signal this. It meant that Gyllenhaal becomes a bit flat and robotic and ultimately I didn't care if he succeeded or failed.

So out of these two media peddlers, who is worse? Lou provides this material because she buys it: she pays for it, because he's got it. Essentially they both want success, but the irony is they become worse as people, justifying their immoral actions in order to be perceived as 'better' by society. The smiling interns at the end demonstrate how 'normal' these malpractices have become.

Ostensibly, this is a film about spin and that any tale can be rewritten: personal life story or the 9 o'clock news. Whatever sells. At any cost.

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