There are fascinating, deeply unsettling ideas percolating through writer/director Tom Ford’s psychological drama, but I can’t shake the sense that he doesn’t entirely pull off the execution. Amy Adams plays Susan, an art gallery manager who receives a package from her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) containing his long-gestating first novel, containing a deeply unsettling story. Ford spins the narrative between Susan’s present, flashbacks to her relationship with Edward and the novel’s story, and it’s hard not to offer a little nod of appreciation that Ford casts Isla Fisher as Adams’ story-within-the-story alter-ego. Mostly, however, there’s a compelling notion about masculine power, from self-identification as protector (and sometimes avenger) to its manifestation in women’s relationship choices. If only it seemed that Ford could shed his focus on stylish exteriors—and provocatively eye-catching bits like the opening montage of fully nude plus-size dancers—to really dig into Adams’ character. The final scene could pack a powerful punch at the end of a story filled with uncomfortable material, if it didn’t sometimes feel that it’s more interesting as a thesis than a story about people.
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