Monday, April 27, 2015

Movie Review: Nightcrawler

Sometimes, it takes a while for you to transition back to real life after a big event. Celia had an amazing 3-day trip to the beach a couple weeks ago, and last weekend we finally got back into what is our usual groove of hanging out and doing stuff.

I brought over two films for us to potentially watch. The first was "Bowling For Columbine." I picked up a used copy at FYE a while back because it was only like $3 and I don't remember the last time I had watched it. I was texting Celia that night and mentioned it. And she had no clue what I was talking about. I was dumbstruck that she had never seen nor heard of it and let her know that. She thought I was a little condescending (which I probably was), so she hates that documentary out of spite and wanted nothing to do with it.

My other option was "Nightcrawler," a drama starring Jake Gyllenhaall that came out late last year and had a lot of buzz for it. While the film didn't make a big dent during the "awards season," Gyllenhaall was nominated for a Golden Globe and the film was up for the "Best Original Screenplay" Oscar.

"Nightcrawler" is such an interesting character study into the psyche of a person who wants to succeed at all costs. Is he a good person? The movie opens with Gyllenhaall's character Louis Bloom stealing a chain link fence and attacking a security guard who stops him. When selling that fence and some other items he stole to a construction site, he inquires about a job, smoothly putting himself over as a hard worker who wants to succeed in an organization. When the boss replies with "I'm not hiring a fucking thief," Bloom give a smile as if to say, "Good point" and walks out.

Bloom sees a car accident on the side of the road and stops to observe. It is then that he sees some TMZ-style camera men known as "nightcrawlers," who basically scour the streets at night looking for news stories to record and sell. Bloom hears some dollar figures and decides that he wants into that lifestyle.

We get a humorous montage of Bloom learning police codes and attempting to record his first few police incidents. He races toward a domestic violence call. By the time he gets there, everybody involved is calmly standing around. He pulls up right next to them, almost hitting a police officer, pulls his camera out and starts filming. The cop asks "What the fuck are you doing?"

Louis Bloom eventually gets very good at his job and begins a relationship with one of the local news stations, headed by a lady named Nina, played by Renee Russo. She realizes that ratings are more important than ethics, as she allows footage to be shown that Bloom took after sneaking under police tape and going through a crime scene without permission.

And that's where the ethical dilemma comes into play. Bloom did that once and was rewarded for it. So, he begins to do it a few more times. He gets to a crash scene before the police and looks for the perfect shot. When he can't find it, he goes into the wreckage and moves the dead body into a better spot.

It all escalates from there. He has some issues with his competition that he takes care of. He gets to a home invasion before the police and sees some stuff he should have told somebody about. But he keeps it to himself because he can use it later.

The relationship between Louis and Nina is something that is hinted at, but it is left ambiguous as to whether or not it became sexual. He initially asks her out on a date, and she turns him down noting their professional relationship. He keeps it up and she brings up the age difference between them.

When she does eventually go on that date, Bloom propositions her with sex in exchange for continuing their professional relationship. While she is angered at first, as he talks and brings up her low ratings and how she needs him more than he needs her, her tone softens.

Nothing outwardly happens. There are two moments that lead us to believe something did, though. While having an argument later in the film, Bloom quickly says something about how he was in her apartment at one point. Again left vague, but they either had sex or he tried and she turned him down.

Near the film's climax, Bloom has the footage that will turn Nina's station around. Alone in a dark room, they have an exchange laced in innuendo. As they slowly creep closer toward each other, Bloom seductively asks about the footage, "How bad do you want it?" As she gets closer to him, she replies with a sultry, "Why don't you tell me how bad I want it?"

I guess the main issue with this film is ethics. Doing something unethical is different from doing something illegal. People do unethical things all the time to advance in their lives or careers. People have different sets of ethics. One person can think something is wrong and another will be okay with it.

Like the dead body that Louis moves into a better shot, was that wrong? He didn't kill the person. He just showed up. His job was to film the accident and get a shot of the body. He just couldn't get a good shot. The body was already dead and the ambulance people would have moved it anyway. Was he wrong to do that?

Was he wrong to correctly note that Nina's station was the lowest-rated news program and that he could sell his footage anywhere and that it would be beneficial to give him whatever he wants? Is it ethical to negotiate with sex?

It is a struggle for us at times, because some of us are sympathizing with him as a struggling small-time journalist going up against "the man." But, he is a thief who is willing to bend the rules to get ahead. How he deals with his competition is especially reprehensible. He is not a good person, or is he just a troubled man trying to do the right things?

It's a great film. Nothing amazing, but it will definitely make you think. Check it out; you've got nothing better to do.

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