NOCTURNAL ANIMALS: The opening shots of morbidly obese women strutting their stuff wearing only retro band hats and boots is a jarring illustration that art, like comedy, isn’t always pretty. “Junk” is how the creative rut-ensnared gallery owner (Amy Adams) describes the exhibitionist exhibition on display in her workplace. Her once creative instincts are stirred again when she begins reading a compelling manuscript about a family’s road rage nightmare written and sent to her by her former husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). The book’s contents are played out as they’re being read like a west Texas version of DELIVERANCE (1972) in a genuinely unnerving sequence. Because this drama-within-the-drama is fleshed out so believably, an interesting subplot emerges where Adams (See CLOSING CREDITS.) is struck with the realization that a person she artistically underestimated and attempted to mentor will now professionally surpass her. The screenplay from director Tom Ford (A SINGLE MAN) unfolds in a non-linear fashion where most of the narrative pieces fit together. Visually, some scenes resemble posed art paintings in keeping with much of the movie’s backdrop with a few nods to the occasional quirkiness of David Lynch (BLUE VELVET). The four primary ensemble players are all fun to watch with Adams and Gyllenhaal (BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN) both effectively portraying their characters over a period of time without noticeable amounts of make-up. In supporting roles, Aaron Taylor-Johnson (KICK-ASS) is an especially terrifying thug with the always watchable Michael Shannon (99 HOMES) as a justice seeking lawman. Movies like this one stand out from the norm because their multi-layered storylines keep them from being categorized as a certain type of movie. In fact, the very open-ended conclusion will likely prompt some internet discussion as well as frustrated head scratching. But like a lot of art, it’s open to interpretation. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other good movies starring Amy Adams – CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002), JUNEBUG (2005)*, TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE LEGEND OF RICKY BOBBY (2006), CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR (2007), ENCHANTED (2007), DOUBT (2008)*, JULIE & JULIA (2009), THE FIGHTER (2010)*, THE MASTER (2012)*, AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)**, ARRIVAL (2016)

*Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actress

**Academy Award Nomination for Best Actress