Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Alternate Best Actor 2014: Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a SAG, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and numerous critics' awards, for portraying Louis 'Lou' Bloom in Nightcrawler.

Nightcrawler is a very effective film about a strange man who decides his career path as filming nighttime crime and accident scenes for the local news.

Nightcrawler opens as we see Lou Bloom, who starts out as simple a small time thief, as he is stealing from a construction site, and proceeds to beat down a police officer who catches him. From this first scene it is abundantly clear that Lou Bloom is not your average sort, and nor is this an average performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal's whole appearance is quite something all in itself with his particularly gaunt appearance, and the way he rarely ever blinks. Gyllenhaal's stare is terribly piercing in just how large his eyes are and just how unwavering they are. Gyllenhaal makes these alone allude to at least three things about Lou Bloom. The first being that he might be more than a little off as a man, the second being that it seems as though Lou is always looking for as much of something as he can possibly take in, and thirdly is that Lou purposefully is always watching other humans for a very specific reason, which I will get to later. I won't wander around the point though Gyllenhaal's physical transformation here is absolutely remarkable in that not only does it feel wholly natural in creating the peculiar man that is Lou Bloom, but Gyllenhaal completely disappears into this role.

Gyllenhaal's manner of delivery here is just fascinating as he speaks most of his lines in a particularly calm, and unassuming voice. Gyllenhaal's vocal portrayal though is as a man who speaks so calmly to people because that's how a proper person speaks to one another person, right? It's the perfect sort of voice for a nice young man, looking to make a name for himself, as we see in the scene right after that opening scene where Lou tries to sell the stolen material to a construction boss. Bloom first negotiates the price in such a bizarre way. Gyllenhaal brings such an energetic quality as though talking about the price of stolen goods is like a high powered business meeting. The best part is though when he's not really given a straight answer Lou instantly jumps to asking for a job, then when that does not look possible an internship is obviously a good enough start for him. Gyllenhaal carries such an enthusiasm that is oddly endearing in a way, because well he makes Lou a true go-getter someone who goes the extra distance. He means what he says, well as much as a man like Lou can mean something, and I love that Gyllenhaal never loses that timbre in his voice as Lou never stops trying to sell himself even though he clearly has no chance.

By chance Lou sees some nightcrawling in action, getting the news footage at night, so it's obviously time for Bloom to get a camera, first he has to steal a bicycle. Gyllenhaal is just marvelous in that even selling the bicycle to a pawn shop has to turn into some odd performance for Lou. Gyllenhaal again brings the pitchman as he shows a non-stop line of words, filled with a ridiculous amount of lies, as Gyllenhaal again realizes the way that Bloom is just constantly pitching as though it is his innate reaction to anything. Gyllenhaal in a way presents Lou Bloom as truly a great capitalist as he's always striving for his personal best, and knows that to get forward in his life he's going to have to work for it. Bloom seems to find his ideal place in the world when he starts filming himself, and due lack of certain personal restrictions gets angles that no one else would dare try to get. He quickly strikes up a working relationship with a local producer Nina Romina (Rene Russo), who likes his daring new footage. The overemphasis of everything that Gyllenhaal brings is genius though as again he seeks to make an impression, as Gyllenhaal still brings such an earnestness as Lou lists all the random things he has learned, from the internet, to Nina to show he is man who only wishes to evolve using information.

Lou can't do his nightcrawling alone though and has to hire someone to handle the GPS so he interviews a potential assistant Rick (Riz Ahmed). Gyllenhaal adjusts his performance so brilliantly as Lou does his interview. Well rather than being the hopeful up and comer himself he's now the boss as he asks about Rick's credentials for the job. Gyllenhaal now becomes almost like a time share salesman as he espouses the potential advancement and excitement of the job opportunity that is presenting itself to Rick. Gyllenhaal really does sell it though as something to be interested in and even though he's never not a little off, Gyllenhaal makes it convincing that Rick would accept the job. Of course this is a bit problematic since when you get right down to it Lou is a bit of sociopath, and he is at a different frame of mind than the normal person, because he's got a little problem with empathy. One of my favorite depictions of this by Gyllenhaal is in the interview between Lou and Rick. Rick laughs about something, and Gyllenhaal is amazing as he takes a bit long to laugh along with it. Gyllenhaal portrays the sociopath thought process, as he basically has to first recognize that the fellow human is laughing, therefore something's funny, so he better laugh himself.

You know though Lou Bloom might seem a bit off-putting if you only meet him briefly, but if you really get to know him that's where the magic happens. This is the case for Lou and his relationship with Nina. After Lou only grows in success Lou insists that they have a relationship outside of work, which Gyllenhaal plays as the most impersonal of ways to ask someone out, although it's obviously the only way that would be natural for Lou Bloom. Their meal scene together is an outstanding bit of creepiness by Gyllenhaal as he calmly implies that they should have sex because they both share the same schedules, therefore it makes sense. Gyllenhaal some how makes this madness seem so honest, and that is the most stunning bit about his performance. Of course all of Gyllenhaal work has this darkly comic streak because of the juxtaposition of the sheer hopefulness of the man that some how goes hand in hand with his sociopathy. One of my favorite moments of his performance, and I'll admit it there are quite a few of those with this performance, is as Lou calms the situation with Nina by explaining friendship by quoting Robert Louis Stevenson "A Friend is a gift you give yourself". That could be a Disney quote frankly but out of Gyllenhaal it is off-putting in the best sort of way.

But hey maybe everything Lou expresses is not a predetermined emotion he has devised to match any particular situation, Gyllenhaal sometimes reveals the truth about Lou which obviously has to be quite a gentle soul right? Well not quite. In the scene where another nightcrawler tries to get Lou to work for him, and keeps insisting, Lou basically says he's holding back the urge to yell in the man's face to say no, and in the intensity of Gyllenhaal's reserve he shows that it is indeed the truth. Forget about the reserve though in one instance where there is a lull in business, and Gyllenhaal is frightening as he reveals a bit of what is going on in Lou's mind as he screams into a mirror. When he tells Rick late in the film that maybe it's not that he can't connect to people, but rather it is that he hates them all it is very eerier since Gyllenhaal suggest that is probably the case. Rick actually gets to know this as their relationship deepens, particularly when Rick shows hesitations at a pivotal moment. Gyllenhaal is absurdly chilling as he twists his gentle tones to a very dark territory as he puts it bluntly, almost like he's telling him general job instructions, that he will have to hurt Rick very badly if Rick does not perform as he asks.

Jake Gyllenhaal above all gives an illuminating depiction of a man living the American dream. I mean there are a few setbacks. I mean Rick gets killed by accident as they follow around a high speed police chase. Which by the way is another stroke of genius scene by Gyllenhaal as his face projects that of an empathy, not a real one, but you could interpret it as such even though at the same time he coldly admonishes Rick for being too ambitious. Also he does face some scrutiny from the local police force, where again Gyllenhaal is pitch black yet so oddly delightful as he has Lou choke up little when talking about Rick's death because that's what a grieving boss does. For the most part though Lou lives the dream. His product only becomes more valued and more valuable, his company only grows in size and stature, and he even gets to have sex with Nina (where I assume he does some freaky things since in one negotiation session he clearly was not happy with her refusal to do certain things, which I think I'd rather not know). Lou Bloom gets it all in the end and what a terrifying ride it was. Jake Gyllenhaal never side steps the unsavory qualities, not at all, but you can't help but be compelled to watch this man succeed. This whole performance is one huge risk by Gyllenhaal but what a payoff. This is a flawless and endlessly fascinating piece of work by Jake Gyllenhaal as he realizes the one of a kind character Lou Bloom in all of his twisted glory.


Anonymous said...

Love this performance, it easily should have been nominated. Is Russo still a 4?

Matt Mustin said...

I'm really looking forward to the final ranking, because I have no idea where anyone's gonna finish.

luke higham said...

Flawless Performance By Jake Gyllenhaal.

luke higham said...

My anticipation has risen substantially for the Enemy Review, but I'm really looking forward to the final ranking, to see how many 5s you've given overall.

Kevin said...

Absolutely tremendous work from Gyllenhaal. Quite possibly my favourite performance of the 2010s so far.

Hopefully you will love his performance in Enemy as well, as I thought it is really remarkable how Jake was able to turn completely 180 from Lou Bloom to his twin performances in Enemy

Kevin said...

Anyway, what is everyone's favourite scene from Nightcrawler?

I think mine is probably when Lou got sick of bargaining prices with Nina and decides to make his intentions and demands clear to her. That scene was truly frightening to watch

luke higham said...

Kevin: My Favourite moment personally is either the mirror scene or the death stare he gives to Paxton's character while in a stretcher.

luke higham said...

I'm expecting Gyllenhaal, Pierce & Hardy, to be in 1st, 2nd & 3rd place in the final ranking, plus, I don't mind who wins out of either lineup, but I'll be completely satisfied with the 3 I mentioned.

GM said...

Louis, can I have your ratings for:
Kim Novak - Vertigo
Barbarba Bel Geddes - Vertigo
Eve Marie Saint - North by Northwest
Tippi Hedren - The Birds

John Smith said...

My favorite scene would be the scene when he is watching cartoons and just starts laughing. It may be a small moment but it really stucked with me.

Psifonian said...

John, he was watching "The Court Jester." It was such a pivotal moment in understanding his character because he waits, processes... and then understands it's supposed to be funny and laughs much too hard for it to be real. It's watching a true sociopath trying to emulate emotion for the real world. We're getting a look at Lou's practice sessions.

Michael Patison said...

Kevin: Most definitely that major final scene where Rick dies. Gyllenhaal's reaction is utter and complete perfection as he flawlessly realizes both Lou's basic coldness as well as showing him practicing how to show sadness and sense of loss.

Michael McCarthy said...

I gotta say my favorite moment is when he's explaining why he wants to be a video journalist. Admittedly part of why I love it is the use of the score, that "inspirational" music that plays during his speech would be cheesy in any other context, but together with Gyllenhaal's portrayal of a completely hollow man it creates a brilliant subversion of the earnest up-and-comer archetype.

RatedRStar said...

BEST PERFORMANCE OF 2014, I dont even think its close I think Jake will be the major snub from this year when 2014 gets mentioned in the future.

I dont have a favorite scene since I loved every single scene.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

My favorite moment was probably the scene where Rick spills some gas on the car. In that scene Lou drops all pretense and just goes right for the jugular over something small an unimportant.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: For me I think its the Performance of the Decade so far, with Guy Pearce, an extremely close second.

3. Tom Hardy in Locke
4. Essie Davis in The Babadook
5. Marion Cotillard in The Immigrant
6. Joaquin Phoenix in The Master
7. Mark Strong in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
8. James McAvoy in Filth
9. Choi Min Sik in I Saw The Devil
10. 4 way tie - Michael Keaton in Birdman/Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club/Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln/Mads Mikkelson in The Hunt

Anonymous said...

@luke: No Fassbender? He would easily be in My Top 10, either for 12 Years a Slave or Shame. I think all the performances you mentioned (that I've seen) were great, with probably McAvoy as my first and Gyllenhaal as my second. I disagree though with Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln (he was good but he didn't touch me emotionally).
Mine probably is:
1. McAvoy, Filth
2. Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
3. Fassbender, Shame
4. Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin
5. Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
6. McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
7. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
8. Essie Davis, The Babadook
9. Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
10. Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
I think.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Actually to be fair, since I love Fassbender to death, I'll place him in 10th alongside the other 4 for Shame.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: Also, does my opinion really matter that much to you, I take Louis's more than anyone else and my opinion is subjective, not the frickin rule.

Anonymous said...

@luke: Of course it's subjective I was just asking because you previously said you're a Fassbender fan.

luke higham said...

Anonymous: That's fine, Don't worry, I respect your opinion on Day Lewis, from past experience on the blog, it's not particularly a performance for everyone.

John Smith said...

Psifonian: That might be the reason that it stayed with me. He was not being normal, he was acting out what he believed to be a normal reaction. And his definition of normal human behavior was probably what disturbed me.

Luke, your list is filled with many great performances. Her are mine...

1. Joaquin Phoenix in The Master

2. Oscar Isaac in Inside Llewyn Davis

3. Jake Gyllenhal in Nightcrawler

4.Nawazudin Siddiqui in Gangs Of Wasseypur part 2&3

5.Charlize Theron in Young Adult

6. Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone

7. Kate Winslet in Little Children And Jackie Earley Haye (I'm a cheater)

8. Hawkes In Winter's Bone

9. James Macavoy in Filth

10. Joaquin Phoenix in Her (Rated R Star you have to admit that Joaquin is turning out to be one of the most compitent and daring actors som far when it comes to qaulity performances)

Special Mention's:

-Patric Wilson in Little Children

-Patton Oswalt in Young Adult

-Christopher Walken in Seven Psychopats

-Manoj Bajpai Gangs Of Wasseypur

-Tigmanshu Duhlia in Gangs Of Wasseypur 1&2

-Richa Chadda In Gangs Of Wasseypur 1&2

-Cate Blanchet in Blue Jasmine

Im going to watch Tinker Tailor Spy tonight, i hope it meets my expectations (:

Another thing... Is it wrong of me to feel bad for not including that many women?

RatedRStar said...

@John Smith: Of course, Her and The Master would be on my top 10 for their respective years.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Ask me about best of the decade in 2019.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@John Smith: Nah, it's probably just a coincidence with the sort of films you prefer, generally.

Here are mine:

1. Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewlyn Davis
2. Ben Whishaw, Cloud Atlas
3. Marion Cotillard, Rust and Bone
4. Tom Hardy, The Drop
5. Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
6. Marion Cotillard, Two Days One Night
7. Mark Strong, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
8. Michael Keaton, Birdman
9. JGL, 50/50
10. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

John Smith said...

Will do that Robert (:

Louis Morgan said...


I'd move her up to a 4.5 and I'd actually up Ahmed to a 4 as well.

Kevin: Chasing the car chase is my favorite scene film wise, Lou's dinner with Nina performance wise.


Kim Novak - 4.5(She is somewhat overshadowed by Stewart, but she's very good in at first portraying the otherworldly woman that Scottie could get so caught up with. She's convincing there, but also is convincing when it turns out that was all simply an act. She does well to show the full reveal to her character as just technically a normal woman who is suffering from guilt yet still expresses honest fear when it becomes clear that Scottie is dangerously obsessed.)

Barbarba Bel Geddes - 4(On re-watch her performance stood out quite well actually. Her role is rather simple, compared to Stewart and Novak, but she effective by providing a bit of honest warmth very much needed for the film. Past that though she's good with Stewart as she conveys there past together rather effectively)

Eve Marie Saint - 4(The show belongs to some one else, but Saint offers some fine bit of glamorous possible femme fatale. Saint plays up her mystery rather well and has some nice chemistry with Grant.)

Tippi Hedren - 3.5(She's not Hitchcock's most charismatic lead, and I'd say her early scenes are probably her weakest. She's actually more effective though in portraying the growing dread of the situation by expressing the fear of the situation through her performance)