The Plot Thickens
Inspiration (Part 1)
“Do you ever feel like your life has turned into something you never intended?” asks Amy Adams about a quarter of the way into fashion designer turned writer and director Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals. She’s sitting at a desk in the art gallery she owns, sleep deprived from having stayed up all the night before reading a novel manuscript by her ex-husband. As the film unfolds, Adams back tracks through her first marriage from nearly two decades ago and finds herself to be a completely different person now than she ever thought she would be.
Nocturnal Animals was released in 2016, and though it received largely positive reviews and even scored Michael Shannon a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, it mostly flew under the radar. When I first saw the film during my senior year of high school, I enjoyed it but wasn’t overly impressed. This past weekend, I re-watched the film and was completely blown away by its narrative complexity, director Ford’s framing and visual storytelling, and, of course, Adams’ lead performance.
The previous night I watched another (more severely) overlooked film from 2018 called American Animals, a true story about four college students who tried and failed to pull off a heist in Kentucky.
In American Animals, the main character, Spencer, is hoping to find something useful to do with his life. Several conversations revolve around if every person is special or if everyone is told a lie by their parents, which eventually leads to lots of unhappiness. It recalls the paradox that if everyone is special, is anyone special?
The film hypothesizes that something special will not just “happen” to a person; they must make their life extraordinary. I don’t really believe this, but then again, who am I to say if I’m special? Isn’t an artist deemed special by others and those who view their work? It’s an issue of objectivity that I cannot answer. I want to be special and for my work to matter, but how do I achieve this?
This column will be continued in next week’s issue.