Have you seen the movie “Nightcrawler” yet? I feel like I’m late to the party, but finally watched it this weekend. I didn’t know anything about it except that it scored high on Rotten Tomatoes and it stars Jake Gyllenhaal. I will watch anything with him in it.
In discussing it with my husband, we both agreed that the name is kind of dumb. While it does make sense (he’s a freelance cameraman, called a nightcrawler because he works at night), Nightcrawler is a character in comic books, so I honestly thought it was a comic book movie. Don’t all male Hollywood actors have a comic book franchise?
So dumb name. However, I still had high hopes for the movie, since it had been so well-liked, and nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. (Yay! An original screenplay instead of a remake or sequel!)
First, Mr. Gyllenhaal needs to eat something. He lost a bunch of weight for the role, and man, he looks ill. It certainly fits the character, but the man already has abnormally large eyes. Sunken cheeks only make that worse. The movie moves along at a relatively good clip, and it’s quickly apparent that Lou, the character Gyllenhall plays, is a sociopath.
By the end of the movie, Lou is carefully orchestrating what is going to happen with an unsolved triple murder, so that he can become a super successful news outfit. It ends with him now having three vans and multiple employees.
Here’s the thing: I feel like there was no character arc for Lou, the main character. He was nuts in the beginning and he remained just as nuts until the end. He manipulates news, he basically has his partner murdered, and he puts criminals in a situation that demands even more death. He had the capacity to do something that terrible at the start, and by the end he does, in fact, do it. So he not only didn’t grow into a better person, but I don’t think he grew into a more evil person, either.
It seems like people really loved this movie—my husband loved it, too—but in the end, I think it was boring and flat. If it’s supposed to be plot-based, you can kind of figure out what is going to happen relatively quickly. If it’s supposed to be character-based, it failed miserably, since I don’t think Lou was more than a one-dimensional sociopath. (And how do you make a sociopath one-dimensional? There’s so much to work with!)
All of that, however, brings up a question—if it were, in fact, supposed to be plot-based, does it matter as much if the main character remains flat? How important is that character arc when the piece is plot driven? And does a character need to grow and change in order for the story to be interesting, engaging, good? I happen to think so, but so many people liked this movie. It makes me feel like either characters don’t have to change or I completely missed something.