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Open Road Films’ Nightcrawler may or may not turn out to be “an awards movie” — “genre films” rarely do — but it is destined to become a classic and was received accordingly, with a loud and partial standing ovation after its world premiere on Friday night at Roy Thomson Hall as part of the Toronto Film Festival.
The dark and disturbing neo-noir dramedy, which was written and directed by Dan Gilroy (a first-time helmer best known for penning The Bourne Legacy) and stars Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, appears to have been inspired by several of the great films of the ’70s. It tells the story of a loser and loner (Taxi Driver) who is, in many ways, an imbecile who knows how to sound smart (Being There) and finds the attention and acceptance he craves through his association — as a videographer who records the immediate aftermath of tragedies and then sells the footage to local news stations — with the world of television (Network). All that being said, it’s hard to imagine a film more of or about “the TMZ age” in which we live, which has endangered the very notion of privacy and decency.
I imagine that Gyllenhaal, a favorite target of the paparazzi, connected to the Los Angeles-set film on this level and felt it was a cautionary tale that needed to be told. Regardless of his motivations, he dropped 30 pounds for the part (he looks shockingly gaunt in the film) and does some of the very best work of his career in it.
He has a great scene partner in Rene Russo, the lovely actress of many 1990s films — and Gilroy’s wife of 22 years — who more or less dropped off the scene after 2005, but, following small turns in Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013), truly announces her return in Nightcrawler. For her work in a part that is not unlike the one Faye Dunaway won an Oscar for playing in Network (apart from her love interest being younger instead of older and using her for his advancement instead of the reverse), she could sneak into a best supporting actress race that appears to be very thin this year.
Riz Ahmed and Bill Paxton also appear in small and relatively stock roles.
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