Nightcrawler proves to be less than thrilling

by Sylvain Gaulier

“This movie is about being bold,” said actor Jake Gyllenhaal as he introduced his newest movie,  Nightcrawler, in which he plays Lou Bloom, a loner craving for money and power. In this modern American success story, Bloom decides to pursue a career in freelance TV reporting and quickly brushes aside his remaining morale to pile up money.

Nightcrawler, directed by Dan Gilroy, opens with Bloom stumbling across news crew capturing footage and reporting on a car crash. He then trades his stolen bike for cash, a police scanner, and a video camera, beginning a new career in crime journalism starts.

Bloom soon meets the news producer of a struggling Los Angeles TV channel who teaches him the tabloid press mentality of, “If it bleeds, it leads.” The producer constantly pushes him to overcome his boundaries to find her the most gruesome content. The intricate dynamics of their relationship evolve throughout the film until Bloom understands he has far more power over her than she does over him.

Similarly to his previous roles in Donnie Darko and Enemy, Jake Gyllenhaal embodies a socially unstable character. Bloom’s rise to stardom is quick due to his lack of morals. Making himself a name is his only focus. It is done at the expense of the people surrounding him, who he merely uses to advance his personal destiny. He represents the dark side of the American dream, a successful story that was made entirely on the backs of others. Bloom’s character is unpleasant as he lacks any compassion for others and makes heavy use of empty business key words.

While it is clear that the movie is a crude satire of the moral indifference of tabloid journalism, I did not comprehend what the message of the movie was. Should we listen to Gyllenhaal’s words before the screening when he said, “it shows you can do anything if you want it?” The means to the end would no longer matter? I do not share this pessimist vision on the moral stance one should adopt.

The script for Nightcrawler is over the top. I quickly lost focus in the movie. While he tried to play down the alarming character of the tabloid industry with offbeat dialogues, he failed to humor me because of its constant shift of tones between its entertaining, serious, and disturbing character. With the exception of Bloom, each character was quite stereotypical: the ruthless news editor, the young naïve news assistant, and so on. Gilroy could have added greater depth to the movie by adding more layers to the different characters.

Even though Gyllenhaal’s performance must be praised for effectively portraying Bloom’s outrageous personality, the movie failed to capture my whole interest. It remains awkwardly stuck between a comedy and a satire of the tabloid industry. Nightcrawler does not quite fit into any one genre and the plot fails maintain the prolonged interest of the audience.