Tom Ford’s “Nocturnal Animals” dives so far through the proverbial looking glass that it lands nowhere in particular.
It’s a self-reflexive enterprise, adapted by Ford from the novel “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright, that’s supposed to explore the ways real-life experiences can be internalized and morphed into fiction. But it plays as a turgid exercise, intellectualized to oblivion.
The movie features a sad Amy Adams lounging around a luxe apartment, wearing chic designer duds in scenes that play like one of the famed designer’s catalogs brought to life.
Her character, Susan, spends most of her screen time reading a manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) and dedicated to her, in which a character named Tony (also played by Gyllenhaal) runs into some violent trouble along with his wife (Isla Fisher) and daughter in West Texas.
The story-within-a-story offers some pleasures, a nasty sort of genre enterprise with some genuine redneck sadism and the never-to-be-underestimated pleasure of Michael Shannon as a manic law enforcement official.
Ford, a gifted filmmaker, would have done well to abandon the framing device and simply make a desert noir. The convoluted extra conceit renders it irrelevant.