Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Amy Adams, Armie Hammer, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Plot: In the midst of her marital crisis, a wealthy art gallery owner (Adams) receives a draft of her ex-husband’s (Gyllenhaal) new novel (IMDB.com).
***THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!***
Overall: First, the opening scene was cringe-worthy (in my opinion) because it opens with an older, fat, naked, dancing woman (or a couple of them? can’t really tell). I actually ended up fast-forwarding through that. It was just a very strange, uncomfortable 10 minutes of film. This film is very vague and it jumps between the present, flashbacks and the novel Susan (Adams) is reading.
The novel that she is reading is very strange. It entails the storyline of a man (Gyllenhaal) and his wife (Fisher) and daughter (Bamber) embarking on a road trip for a family vacation. Along the way, they are taunted by three mischievous rednecks, which ends up with the man rear-ending the rednecks’ car. They all pull over and it turns into a brawl leaving the man with one of the rednecks, while the other two rednecks drive off with the wife and daughter. Essentially, the wife and daughter aren’t found until later for which they are found raped and murdered. The man teams up with the Sheriff (Shannon) who is later revealed to be dying and decides not to play things by the book. The two seek out the perpetrators in the man’s wife and daughter’s murders.
After reading the script, Susan sends Edward (Gyllenhaal), her ex-husband and writer of the novel she was reading, an email asking to meet, for which he responds asking when and where. The film ends with her sitting at a restaurant waiting for him.
Now, I feel like the script was supposed to be symbolic of Adams and Gyllenhaal’s relationship throughout their marriage. For example, the wife and daughter in the script were taken away by other men for which could be symbolic of the loss of both his marriage to Adams and the fact that they had a child together which was also “taken away” when she left him for someone else (Hammer). There’s a part in the script where Gyllenhaal’s character screams and cries, “I should’ve fought! I should’ve fought harder for them!” to which he is referring to his wife and daughter. I feel this is symbolic to Adams character in real life leaving Gyllenhaal for Hammer. I thought it was interesting how her life seemingly turned out exactly the way she said she didn’t want it to. During one of the flashbacks, she’s fighting with Gyllenhaal (and at this point, you [the viewer] is left with the assumption that she’s cheating and ready to run off with the man with whom she’s cheating with) and she says things like, “You’re so soft and gentle and romantic,” and that she’s “not creative [like Gyllenhaal]” and doesn’t want to be with another artist because he seemingly sacrificed his education and their future (financially, I’m assuming) together. I interpreted this to come full circle when Gyllenhaal’s character in the script screams and cried “I should’ve fought! I should’ve fought harder for them!” I think the wife and daughter dying in the script was symbolic of the part in real life where you assume that Adam’s character aborts a pregnancy and brings Hammer’s character along to comfort her, for which Gyllenhaal’s character shows up and is devastated — the film doesn’t go into much detail as to what happened after that. Also, at the end of the script, it fades out to Gyllenhaal badly beaten and laying in the desert sand (for which you’re left to assume that he either died or was never found). I thought that might’ve been symbolic of either him dying of an illness or potentially dying by suicide. Especially when he seemingly doesn’t show up to meet Susan (Adams) at dinner after she read the script.
It’s difficult for me to actually formulate an opinion when I’m left with so many questions. I think from a figurative standpoint and being a writer myself, I definitely believe the script Gyllenhaal’s character wrote was symbolic of the turmoil between him and Adams’ character. Adams’ character is shown having a daughter in real life for whom she calls after reading a portion of the script that brings her to tears. It’s also assumed that Hammer’s character is cheating on Adams’ character because he’s traveling a lot instead of wanting to spend time with her and when Adams calls him, he’s in an elevator with a young brunette and when Adams hears the elevator valet ask something to the woman, there’s tension between Hammer and Adams. It was just a really bizarre film and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. I’ve been sitting on this review for a day now and I’m not even sure how to interpret it. I gave it five out of ten stars simply for the supposed symbolism of it. But overall, I don’t think it was very cohesive and it was way too subjective to interpret to actually enjoy.