We’re all too familiar with that “it” moment where you know that a performer is giving the performance of his/her career – Vivien Leign in GWTW and ASND, Charlize Theron in Monster, Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, Judy Garland in A Star is Born etc etc etc. The main similarity of these performances is that they’re Oscar-winning (well, I like to think Garland won) but more impressively, they made these characters uniquely their own, so much so that we cannot imagine anyone else touching them. And that’s why they’re often regarded as the best in film history.
Unfortunately, Jake Gyllenhaal was overlooked for the “it” performance of his career as Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler. First of all, I have to clarify that I’m no fan of Gyllenhaal as an actor – I usually find him on the bland side. Still, having watched Nightcrawler, I’m going to say that he probably gave the best male performance of 2014. Of course, I have yet to watch a couple of other critically acclaimed works but Gyllenhaal’s performance here is one of those that’s so incredible, you know that it’d take a lot for another performance to top it.
Nightcrawler is another erroneously overlooked film of 2014. While I agree that the story may seem rather far-fetched at times, I found it a fascinating way to explore the coldness of human nature. It’s making a rather harsh statement on capitalism and the media, but I enjoyed how it went all out to portray people as ruthless assholes. Rene Russo gives a very good performance and should have been nominated for her work as the cold-bitch of a news director. In weaker years, I would have given Riz Ahmed a supporting actor nom too.
Still, Nightcrawler is the Jake Gyllenhaal show. It takes a lot to evoke such strong hatred in me towards a particular character, and Gyllenhaal does it without coming off as trying too hard. Right from the beginning, I knew that Lou Bloom was going to be a character I was going to hate, and yet I felt so drawn into his world and perspectives of things. I hated the way he smugly recites what he learned on the internet, the way he “lectures” others on how to be a successful and the overall “creepy” vibe that he gives off. What is so amazing about Gyllenhaal’s performance is how much detail he invests into his characterization of Lou Bloom. I’m not lying when I saw I loved every scene of his performance as it always revealed something about the character to me – the watering of the plants, his weird laughter when watching TV, his cold vacant stares, his arrogant way of talking to others.
The guy is simply a creepy, sociopathic asshole who capitalizes on deaths and crimes for his own business, but Gyllenhaal never becomes one dimensional in his portrayal of the character’s mental state. Even though many of his actions just spoke “crazy” to me, I always felt this creepiness and disgust at him. I wouldn’t use the word charismatic, but there’s this strange magnetism about him that I wanted from Steve Carell’s performance in Foxcatcher. The guy doesn’t kill anyone (directly) in the film, and yet you can feel he’s just evil. The noticeable lack of empathy and disregard for others is something that i scarier than all the crimes that he filmed. There’s a lot more about the character’s state of mind that is never revealed, but Gyllenhaal uses his creepy eyes to show flashes of them here and there. What is even more amazing is how subtle the performance is – other than the mirror scene, Gyllenhaal never had to rely on any loud mannerisms and screaming to convey the character’s madness.
As I’ve said already, it’s hard for me to pick a best scene from this performance as every one is gold. It could be when he’s threatening Nina in the restaurant, or when he told Rick that he simply dislikes people – all in all, this overlook on the Oscar’s part is definitely going to be considered one of it’s worst snubs in history. 5/5.