My Rating: 4 stars
I liked this movie a lot more than I was expecting to. And, that’s really saying something, because I had heard this movie was really good, and I’ve been disappointed by raised expectations before. I had never really viewed Jake Gyllenhaal as that great of an actor. He always seemed like just a silly, mainstream, pretty-boy to me. But, he really transforms into something terrifying in this small, quirky film. He’s so manic, and wired, and calculating. He almost doesn’t seem human.
The movie is nominally a story about a man, Lou Bloom, who becomes a paparazzo for a local news station. But, it’s really about the kind of person who would ever want to do this job. They’d have to be ruthless, shameless, unflappable, and very ambitious. It requires a lot of hustle to get exclusive footage. There’s a lot of competition. And, it requires a very strong stomach to film the kinds of events that the fear mongering, local news stations crave—flaming car crashes, grisly murders, gang violence. Someone in this line of work would have to be able to turn their sense of morality and empathy off (or lack these qualities completely). And Gyllenhaal really does play a character who seems unsettlingly soulless. Of course, the massive amount of weight he lost for the role—giving him hollow cheeks, and deep-ringed eyes—contribute to this aura of insanity.
The pacing of this movie is also pretty tense. The nature of this profession is very time sensitive, and the film does a good job capturing this frantic mood. And, the cinematography is incredible. It’s shot like a noir drama. The look is very dark. Most of the action happens at night, lending plenty of deep shadows and those yellow-light street lights that are so harsh. I was really impressed. I also appreciated that this movie didn’t try to be bigger than it had to be. A lot of directors get a little overambitious, and they water down their story with unneeded narrative or detail. But, this movie sticks closely to its core characters, and really tries to get into their heads.
I definitely recommend this movie to people who enjoy tense, disturbing thrillers. It sounds a little corny to say, but it’s full of lots of good acting. The actors are really out there, giving it their all. And, the film is excellent as a result. I’m not sure why this movie didn’t get more theater time when it came out, but you’re not going to want to miss it now that it’s available for home rental.