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TIFF: Relating to Amy Adams in "Nocturnal Animals" and "Arrival"

Nathaniel R reporting from TIFF. The festival is winding down now but my mind keeps drifting back to the Amy Adams double feature on day two. If there were gif walls featuring all of Amy Adams close-ups in both of her movies this year, they would accurately describe this critics innermost thoughts about the movies they came from. Read on and I'll elaborate (without spoilers) though we'll obviously revisit and go into more detail when both movies actually...ahem... arrive in mid November which is unofficially 'Amy Adams Month' according to distributors.

ARRIVAL (Dir. Denis Villeneuve, US)
Paramount Pictures. Opens on November 11th

In this gripping and sensationally crafted sci-fi drama, adapted from the short story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang, Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks. Dr Banks is a prominent linguist who is recruited by the government to attempt to communicate with extra-terrestrials. They have arrived on Earth or, rather, are hovering above it in twelve space crafts each in a separate area of the world, appearing to do nothing at all. Will the world's fearful governments nuke the ships or can Dr Banks save the world (if it's even threatened?) by learning why they've come?

We don't learn much about Dr Banks backstory but she frequently remembers a daughter she lost to cancer. Whenever the movie flashed to these hazy scenes I personally flashed to Sandra Bullock's similar backstory in Gravity and worried for all the imaginary mothers in future Hollywood movies that will be forced to lose their children to provide a sentimental hook. It is that, alas, but it's also far more organically fused to the material, which is circular in its themes and visuals so we know intuitively that we'll keep circling back to her sad memories as Dr Banks agonizes over how to communicate with the beings that have come to be known as "heptapods".

The alien language is also circular, visually speaking, when Dr Banks finally convinces them to speak. I don't want to spoil any details because every trip inside the alien space craft is wholly transfixing, as is the movie around it but to a lesser degree. Director Denis Villeneuve proves again, right on the heels of the stunning Sicario, that he's a master of his craft. That's two master classes in producing high anxiety silences and using resourceful female leads to illustrate the dangers of a violent man's world. Amy Adams anchors the film with one of her smartest performances, warm but not personal (she's a total professional) and quite believable as a thinker and expert communicator. Watching the emotions dance on her face from awestruck happiness to deep sadness and, more importantly, watching her gears turn to process all the information, is exactly what many will feel watching this terrific movie. 

Grade: A-
MVP: Denis Villeneuve
Oscar Chances: A major contender across the board but especially in Picture, Director, Cinematography, Production Design, Visual Effects, Sound, and Adapted Screenplay


Focus Features. Opens on November 18th 

In the Tom Ford film, based on the novel "Tony and Susan" by Austin Wright, Adams plays Susan Morrow. Susan is a highly successful but quite miserable art dealer, who worries that her marriage is failing. One day in the mail she receives an unpublished novel called "Nocturnal Animals," written by her ex Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). The book within the book, you see, has become the movie of a book, inside of another movie. 

Though Ford's visual prowess will bewitch many it's also, to these eyes, wasted on an often sordid and empty movie. The nude credits sequence (immediately jawdropping) is woefully disconnected to the dull lonely marital drama it prefaces which is itself aggravatingly detached from the inner movie but for the face of Jake Gyllenhaal, the only actor in both inner and outer movie. "Nocturnal Animals" is a lurid and violent pulp fiction in which a man named Tony, his wife (Amy Adams lookalike Isla Fisher) and their daughter are driven off the road by a group of thugs and things only get more hellish from there. Your mileage may vary but I found it more and more distasteful and mean-spirited as it played out.

For her part Amy Adams is given precious little to do as Susan. In the outer movie she's all jaded disillusionment, and self-pitying sadness, as she reacts to other flashier characters. I was all of those things while watching her movie. In the inner movie (we flash occassionally to her reading it) she's at first mesmerized, then terrified, than sad all over again. Finally she's eager to move on and desperate for a silver lining. I know how you feel, Amy. I know you feel.

Grade: D+
MVP: Michael Shannon owns the movie. He appears in the Nocturnal Animals section as a local sheriff attempting to help Tony with the crimes perpetrated against him. Shannon strikes such a perfect tone, think non-naturalistic but Great-Character-in-Book stylization, that you can love him within the movie even if you hate the movie. 
Oscar Chances: Oscar Chances: A major contender across the board from the sounds of the audience chattering around me and some critics though it's Jury Prize win at Venice just baffles me. It's so empty. It could contend in PictureDirector, Supporting ActorCinematography, Production DesignScore, and Adapted Screenplay

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Reader Comments (37)

Fascinating. Thank you. I look forward to checking out both films and am happy for Amy.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJono

2016, the year of Amy Adams! One of the best working actresses today who is terribly overdue of an Oscar. I'm really rooting for her.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNani

Why overdue????? No one really is IMO.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrick

@ rick, true

but Adams has been delivering the goods for quite some time now. She has been consistently good/ very good / excellent since 2007.

It's not like she was very good 10 years ago, then nothing, then she's again very good this year.

Her CV is becoming more auteur oriented (Denis Villeneuve, Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson) which I can't not notice and appreciate.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

ugh, does this mean she'll be sitting in every Oscar roundtable at the end of the year?

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCris

I think she's overdue, because as Yavor said, she's been consistently excellent over the last decade and has also deserved to win the Oscar twice as far as I'm concerned.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNani

Amy Adams only deserves a competitive Oscar in supporting actress. Since she's already at perennial status in the category with four nominations.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Nothing makes me root harder for an actress than when a certain commenter is against them...

Interesting that you don't list her performance in the Oscar chances for either movie. Arrival seems like it'll be huge.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterrb

Nat I feel it's a little silly to say that it will be a player everywhere but for Best Actress when it's obvious she's an Oscar darling and is offering up 2 wildly different performances in 2 auter type movies and giving her all to each,plus she's well liked,a sure bet for roundtables even if she doesn't enjoy them,she promotes with the best,I know your not keen on her in most things bar The Fighter & Junebug mainly but this seems a bit mean,it's like she's the opposite of the blind Fassbender lovefest every year here.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

It feels like she's the female version of Leonardo DiCaprio on this site. They both are shaded a lot in the articles/comments here.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter@markgordon

At the same time, many of Amy's fans can be quite irritating so I get the shade sometimes.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commenter@markgordon

Dame Adams will hit the campaign trail with her usual flair, taking her rightful spot at the yearly THR Oscar roundtable and infuriating the comment boards of TFE.

Come nominations morning, Dame Amy will overperfom and score teo nods. Lead for Arrival, Sandra Bullock in Gravity style, and Supporting for Nocturnal Animals, frauding her way into the category.

The campaigb will smartly shift its focus to securing a win in supporting (lead will be Stone x Davis). Luckily, Emma Stone will win lead and mobs will take to the street demanding Viola be avenged, so Dame Amy will be able to enjoy her post-win brunch quietly and happily.

Dame Amy Adams 2016: 7 noms/1 win. You heard here first!

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

I'm not the biggest fan of Adams or anything approaching that but admire her diverse career over the last 12 years and for her stepping up her career to include the new directors on the block and also not choosing the easy projects bar the Lois Lane stuff,I have seen most of her films and have really thought she brought something different to each one and although she is a Movie Star but not a big enough for me to question her in any role,she is just the character and not Amy Adams playing a character which a lot of modern actresses have become.


September 16, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

"It's so empty"

I just teared up, playing Ford's Vanity Fair interview in the background.

Of course it's "empty". The family two people could've had together, was killed by her betrayal. You don't get romanticism bleaker than that. Cinema as bad dream. No wish fulfillment. You are rewarded for living other people's dreams. Then you can't sleep.

And what's the cultural role of style, beyond (Ford's) ego, seductive advert? Who is Ford speaking on behalf of here? Why don't some people lay it out like everyone else from In the Bedroom? Instead they wait YEARS and put it in fiction (even if it's wattpad, Archives of Our Own fic?) What's the significance of "style", then?

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterKatz

It feels like she's the female version of Leonardo DiCaprio on this site. They both are shaded a lot in the articles/comments here.

Ouch. No. "On this site"? Matt Damon = Amy Adams; Jennifer Lawrence = Leo DiCaprio.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I adore Adams. She should have won for both The Fighter and Junebug, and her performance in Doubt has aged quite well.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

It's only mid September and I'm already sick of the debates about Amy Adams. Just give her the fraud Oscar for Nocturnal Animals so we can all move on.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

sometimes in the comments there is such a disconnect from what the article says versus what you think it says. I gave Amy high praise for her work in Arrival and yet everyone's like "oh, shading her again are we?"

it's quite strange.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

You weren't even shady to Amy here! Yet you're getting so much crap for no reason. Amy Adams' stans are officially the worst. They can't handle even the slightest bit of criticism towards her and act like everyone who doesn't worship her is crazy or something.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPoor Nathaniel

anyway. loved her in ARRIVAL and loved the movie. i hope at least a few of you took that away from the article rather than making up your own article in your head.

September 16, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

@Nathaniel- I agree, I feel like your Arrival review gave Adams a ton of credit/praise. PPL must have just gotten butt hurt that you didn't list best Actress as an Oscar chance. (Unseen) I think she has a chance BUT it is scifi so maybe not likely especially in a year like this.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Love her career trajectory. Can you think of any other actress who's made such a smooth and successful transition from supporting parts to leading roles while approaching her 40s? I mean, she's not even slowing down. She's quite a beautiful anomaly in Hollywood, if you ask me.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

Nat, is it possible to explain why you think Best actress is one of the categories where Arrival Isn't a major contender? (Seriously curious on this). On paper it seems like a lock.

September 16, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

I love her and surely will be watching these two movies when they come out.
LOL hell yeah for her getting two noms and a win this year.
"It's empty" is such a baffling notion for me as I also think that Persona and Youth are empty in a way or another but both are still very good movies.

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I think it's that every year there seems to be some sort of comments about Adams and her undeserving status which to fans of the actress tends to grate after 10 yrs,esp when people like Vikander etc are promoted to god like staus with 1 or 2 films,Doubt,The Master,Big Eyes have all come under fire,not necessarily all the time from you Nat recently there was the comment you made about her getting in would be the worst case ever of default status,a little OTT really but it's like Swank and Renee getting bad comments for years aswell,give her a break people she has well proved herself.

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

everyone -- who started this insane "supporting for nocturnal animals" thing? she is the lead of both movies, the centerpiece character. I don't think even the Academy would buy that fraud since there's no other woman in either film with a big role. Literally every other woman in Nocturnal Animals gets just one scene, two tops depending on how you count them.

matt -- oh she could make it in for arrival I suppose. but it's already a very competitive year for Best Actress and she is in a sci-fi drama (where her competition is in true stories or showcase dramas) and apart from Bullock in Gravity and Weaver in Aliens (and the role isn't as showy as either of those) that hasn't happened.

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNathanielR

I blow hot and cold on Amy Adams. I first noticed her watching Miss Petrigrew Lives For a Day, and I thought wow, this girl really is something. Then I saw Junebug and she left me speechless.
I prefer her doing comedy, she was beat perfect in The Muppets, and is hilarious in Drop Dead Gorgeous.
But sometimes she can just be too earnest, which i think is what grates.
She definitely deserves an Oscar (she could have cleaned up for Junebug) but this year, i have a feeling that yet again, it's just not going to be her year.

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJB

*SHOULD have cleaned up for Junebug

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJB

I think Junebug gets he lots of goodwill all these years later.

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordon

Always appreciate Adams' work even if I don't always like the characters she plays or her public persona (see Roundtable Fatigue). You watch American Hustle, Enchanted, Her and The Fighter back to back, and you gotta admire her gifts/skills. Looking forward to these two new films.

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I like her. I haven't seen The Master, but I think she deserved the nominations she got the other four times, and she has been good elsewhere too (e.g. Enchanted, Her, Big Eyes). She's the chief draw for me in both Nocturnal Animals. What a career she's having.

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I like Amy Adams, though she's not one of my favorites. I probably would have given her the Oscar for The Fighter.

You've seen the film so you're in the best position to judge, but judging by the trailer, I can't see Oscar voters going for something like Nocturnal Animals (it definitely looks to be secondary to Loving for Focus, anyway). Tom Ford isn't an Oscar favorite, the film seems violent, somewhat cold and really sexy, and Gyllenhaal and Shannon have been ignored by Oscar voters. Adams seems to be the main draw for Academy members and she has another movie out this season, although both her films are potentially divisive.

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I think it would work in her favour to not be nominated this year, if she's not going to win.
She gets unfairly criticised (me included) because of the 'fatigue', when really she does a lot of great work, plus people haven't forgiven her for Emma Thompson a few years ago.
Missing out this year will mean more people are behind her win when the time comes 'she deserves it, it was unfair she missed out on a nomination that year' etc

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJB

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Natalie Portman (Jackie) NEW FRONT FRUNNER Emma Stone (La La Land) Annette Bening (20th Century Women) Viola Davis (Fences) Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

September 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterMiss Cleo

Well your empty can be something so much different for others. For example I found Carol empty yet if I'm not mistake it's your fav movie from last year. Arrival looks a bit boring to me but I'm glad to read it's good given what Villeneuve is shooting at the moment his good handle on sci-fi is a positive sign

September 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commentersati

Finally saw this today. The opening was quite the shocker, and not in a good way.

Michael Shannon should get a well deserved Oscar nomination.

And while I love Jake, I don't think he has a chance for this. But he is building a great resume with this and other films. Oscar has to reward him soon.

December 13, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPatryk

Amy Adams has some fantastic roles under her belt.We provide here the list of Amy Adams upcoming movies 2018 She's played Lois Lane in the recent Superman movies, a real-life Disney Princess in Enchanted, and aviation legend Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum 2. We also loved her in The Fighter — heck, she's even worked with the Muppets! Arguably one of Hollywood's most underrated actresses, with a wealth of experience in many genres of movies, she's still not managed to get herself an Oscar. Well, with her new movies and TV project, I can only hope Adams gets the recognition she deserves.So to help keep you on top of this talented lady‘s anticipated new movie releases, we've made a handy list of the next Amy Adams films and tv shows. Let's check them out! Via

December 1, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterArjun Kapoor

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