Author Topic: Nightcrawler  (Read 3972 times)

Bondo

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Nightcrawler
« on: February 14, 2015, 11:24:40 PM »
Nightcrawler (2014)

Nightcrawler has the potential to ask as an ideological Rorschach test. One of the key ideological differences that shapes one's worldview is whether you see the world largely as a place of individual actor, with society comprising the sum of their parts, or whether you see society as a system that ultimately molds those who live within it. The former view would see Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) as a uniquely, morally corrupt individual, alongside a number of other less than noble actors, that exploit and create the "if it bleeds, it leads" local news system, in this case represented by Nina (Rene Russo). The latter view might see Nina and Lou as human beings who, if not exactly average, are at least not monstrous, rather, the social context pushes them toward some rather distasteful choices.

Either view has a certain legitimacy, and I can see the uncomplicated appeal in simply drawing a clear line and blaming these characters for their actions, punishing them, and hoping that solves the problem. Unfortunately, and why I tend to subscribe to more structural approaches, is this approach doesn't solve the problem. An individualist approach would blame specific individuals for holding racist or prejudiced views, a structural one would see how the media shapes views by being selective in the type of stories they report, in this case focusing in on the suffering of middle and upper class, mostly white, especially as caused by the poor and non-white. But the news programs aren't crafting this message because they have an ideological attachment to racism, they do so because those are the stories that will capture attention. It is irresponsible, but it is what drives their ad rates, thus their ability to survive. And the viewers interests are probably shaped in some way by this so it becomes a destructive circle.

For Lou, you see an incredibly crafty, entrepreneurial individual who should be able to succeed in any number of things. However, because of his lack of formal schooling and an awkward social manner, he finds himself largely blocked from more legitimate channels (lack of opportunity leads to criminal activity, leads to criminal record, leads to lack of opportunity). And so in an economically desperate situation, he opts for the shady business of filming crime scenes for local news, and following on incentives presented to him, seeks increasingly unethical approaches to maximize his value. Rick (Rez Ahmed) enters in as an employee that is even more desperate, and thus even more readily taken advantage of. Instead of these two desperate souls, and the others out there, working together to change the system however, they largely take each other down, classic divide and conquer. Through the interactions of Lou and Nina, we are presented with implications of this structural sickness on romance, with Lou representing patriarchy in the way he exerts a coercive power over Nina. Even though she is in a seemingly superior position, he is able to exploit a few specific weaknesses.

Creating this thematic basis is impressive, but it wouldn't work nearly as well as a film if it wasn't so expertly constructed. Highly stylish and jet black in tone, there is a compelling sleaziness to it all. The way the end-game plays out had me largely holding my breath for the last half hour or more. In this the film is playing a bit of a meta game. Capturing our interest in this way in large part proves the point of Lou and Nina, in a sense justifying his action. In our defense, we know this is a fictional movie, he is operating in the reality of his world (though often distanced from it through his own viewscreen). This way of accusing the viewer of hypocrisy isn't novel, namely seen in Funny Games, and if it were the main thrust of the film I'd probably have found it as unappealing as that film, but added as another layer upon the more socioeconomic relevant parts, I'm willing to revel in my own hypocrisy because hey, it isn't my fault, I'm a victim of the system same as anyone else.

A

Melvil

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2015, 02:08:39 PM »
Interesting review, Bondo! I agree that the movie is more critical of the "system" than of the characters individually. They make a lot of distasteful decisions, but they tend to be based in practicality for their situation and being rewarded for those decisions legitimizes their justification. Bloom is the extreme example with all pretense of moral reservation removed, but the film strikes a really interesting tone that doesn't condemn him so much as trumpet his "successes" to show how he is able to thrive within the system as if his sociopathy is simply a competitive advantage. It makes for a rather distressing but effective experience.

While I enjoyed the movie a lot I don't think it fully sticks the landing. The final stretch relies on an increasing amount of convenience for Bloom, and while it doesn't necessarily undermine anything thematically, it feels a bit contrary to the otherwise chaotic nature of the world laid out previously. Just a little too tidy, and thus a little less satisfying than I had hoped for.

verbALs

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2015, 02:14:30 PM »
Are you thinking of a specific example of that "increasing amount of convenience"?
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

Melvil

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2015, 02:55:36 PM »
Sure, in particular how the car chase plays out and the ease with which he orchestrates Rick's death only hours after deciding it was necessary. I'd say that a lot of convenient pieces started falling into place starting with the home invasion, but by the end Bloom just seemed either way too in control or way too lucky.

verbALs

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2015, 01:05:49 PM »
I didn't realise Bloom had made that decision. If so his death would look horribly convenient. I'll definitely see the film again, I loved it, but that would affect how I feel about it. 
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

Bondo

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #5 on: February 16, 2015, 01:28:40 PM »
I definitely saw Rick's death as orchestrated by Lou, who checks and declares the guy dead and notably demands that Rick step in to film it even though he's right there. Instead he steps back so he can film what he knows is coming, from a perfect angle.

smirnoff

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2015, 01:45:11 PM »
After the shootout in the noodle shop I was actually expecting Lou to just run Rick over in the street as he was coming back to the car. I was thinking "oh, here it comes". But when it didn't happen I thought, oh, maybe Lou isn't going to sell him out after all. And when Rick did eventually get shot it came as a real surprise, and then it hit home what had just happened. Afterward it felt like Lou was seizing the moment, but if it hadn't been then it would've been some other time.

Lou reminded me of a guy who went to a seminar hosted by Greg Kinnear's character in Little Miss Sunshine. I couldn't stop thinking of that. :)

verbALs

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2015, 01:50:30 PM »
I didn't get the sense that Lou needed to kill him or anything that extreme. He threatened him physically IIRC to intimidate him. So the murder was another bit of footage to sell, rather than an opportunist act; but I'm willing to stand corrected. You definitely get a feeling of dread for anyone standing too close to Bloom. He's just going to blight anyone's life who gets too close. Garfield in Force of Evil has the same plague affect.
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

smirnoff

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2015, 02:17:11 PM »
Nasty guy. It all goes to hell after Rick gets a bit of leverage on Lou. I don't know what Lou was expecting though, he'd been exploiting Rick for what seemed like a couple months and I think Rick was finally starting see how unfair the distribution of earnings was. You can't eat someone's lunch forever. It seems like Lou missed that lesson.

The Deer Hunter

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Re: Nightcrawler
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2015, 03:22:11 PM »
From my point of view it was definitely a calculated act by Bloom to put Rick in danger. Obviously he wouldn't know that he would be shot or die the way he did. It stemmed from Rick trying to get more money after they had already agreed upon a new price. After Rick gets shot Bloom tells him that he can't work with someone he doesn't trust.