matt qt’s review published on Letterboxd:
Do not let the title sequence steer you away from this film. I was initially shocked and quite appalled at the sight of what was the opening credits, but I came to a realization about three quarters through the movie. The opening title sequence was a way of making a statement on what does and does not qualify as art. I’m going to steal a line that Darren Aronofsky used to compare his films The Wrestler with Black Swan and say that what is depicted in the opening credits is considered as the lowest art, if art at all, and everything else shown in the movie such as design and novel writing are considered as the highest form of art. Susan considers all forms of art beautiful, and wants to perfect it, whereas Edward is more dismissive of other art forms besides his own. This is purely an inference but I think that it’s backed up by the type of art that Susan decided to pursue after she split up with Edward, and it is heavily implied that it is what caused their relationship to fail. This shows just how much opinions on art and the creative process can impact relationships. Susan and Edward argue over the criticism that Susan gives, which spirals into a huge argument. This is just one of the important themes explored in this film.
I am especially a fan of films that express ideological themes in a non straight forward way, and this film has no shortage of that. It’s narrative structure that is triple intertwined with itself is both clever and confusing, yet I couldn’t be more on board. These three separate storylines are wrapped together through various jump cuts that do seem pretty random at times. I will admit, the editing could have been done better, but it was nothing that took away from my enjoyment. Aaron Taylor Johnson and Michael Shannon are fantastic in their supporting roles, showing way more genuine emotion than the two leads. Jake Gyllenhaal is especially poor at expressing emotion to me. He plays the character who has experienced the most tragedy, and yet his anguish still feels staged and inauthentic. No real complaints about Amy Adams, her character doesn’t really lend itself to a wonderful performance. It is one of her lesser performances for sure, but it’s not her fault a large amount of her screen time is filled with shots of her zoomed face and nothing else. I am not against these shots, but they didn’t really add much to the film in my opinion, and seemed to be fixated on her face for no apparent reason.
Excluding the face shots that I just mentioned, this film has some of the finest cinematography I have seen, capturing shots that showcase modernity, and the expressionist art of Tom Ford. His creativity in his fashion designs certainly is apparent in the films he makes. The way he frames a shot has a fresh type of beauty that you don’t find with experienced directors. His perception on art as a fashion designer gives a fresh take to the medium. As much as I appreciated Ford’s shot framing, the writing was a little lacking, featuring some bits of flat dialogue and one outlandishly poor use of foreshadowing. I am of course talking about the instance where the word “revenge” was inscribed on a painting on the wall. I’m sure that I am not alone in wanting my foreshadowing to be a bit more difficult to anticipate and far less straight forward than this. I mean, that was just lazy. At that point, just don’t include the foreshadowing at all. That one moment did take me out of the experience a little bit, but overall I think that this is a highly ambitious film that deserves way more praise. Tom Ford needs to make more films!