Nightmare Alley (2021)
December 23, 2021 11:49 PM - Subscribe

An ambitious young carny with a talent for manipulating people with a few well-chosen words hooks up with a female psychiatrist who is even more dangerous than he is.

This is a remake of a 1947 film starring Tyrone Powers and Joan Blondell.
posted by chrchr (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The original film is my favorite carny movie. I'm really looking forward to seeing this once it hits streaming.
posted by Catblack at 2:03 PM on December 24, 2021

Just saw the original via the Criterion Channel and it was really good - very odd and dark story for 1947, with great performances and cinematography. Dragged a bit towards the end but a great final act. Curious to see the changes del Toro makes once it comes to streaming, and hoping the psychiatrist role is expanded because she was a bit underwritten in the original.
posted by mediareport at 2:52 AM on December 26, 2021

four stars. hardly a flaw. brutally selfish con man, pure as snow victim, haunting femme fatale. creepy weirdness of the carnival.

heavy atmosphere that keeps one on the edge wondering omfg what horror next?

only a few very gruesome moments, but plenty of disturbing behavior.

the set design is mind-blowing. huge contrast between the filth and mud and grime of the carnival and the stunning beauty of the later building interiors (is it art deco with art nouveaux details? e.g. the standing ash tray with the nymphet figure. I'm not very educated there.)

the lie detector stands out at as curiously misplaced in history.

cooper kills, mara is the exact right person for the role, collette inhabits and disappears into her character. dafoe is a ruthless stand in for capitalism and immorality.

but, the performance of the year goes to blanchette. finest femme fatale in cinema since romijn - and perhaps a more haunting character. sociopath is overused and misused in contemporary language. but, blanchett is sooo cold, unreadable, and uncannily perverse it almost fits.

the ending was crisply reminiscent of the final scenes of angel heart. not justice, so much as balance. we all pay. some now, some later.

cooper, born bad, lived bad, and now will suffer a perdition I'd wish on no one.

provoked some quiet contemplation afterwards; i really needed to sit with it.

near greek in the depths of horror and tragedy.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:02 AM on December 26, 2021 [5 favorites]

Properly, it's not a remake but a new film based on the same source material, the book by William Lindsay Gresham. And the more I think about it, the more I think it's my favorite del Toro movie.
posted by maxsparber at 4:34 PM on December 29, 2021

the lie detector stands out at as curiously misplaced in history.

They've been in use since 1895, and were really popularized in the late 30s, the time the story takes place. Weirdly, the guy who popularized them was William Moulton Marston, who also created Wonder Woman.
posted by maxsparber at 4:38 PM on December 29, 2021 [7 favorites]

posted by j_curiouser at 3:04 PM on January 5

Apropos of nothing, but I recognized the building used as Grindle's office almost immediately. It's the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant in Toronto, which I also recognized as the asylum from John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness from 1995.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:49 PM on February 6

Like all del Toro films , it was beautiful to look at but ultimately left me cold.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:44 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]

This was so great.
posted by jouke at 1:26 PM on February 8

OK so it's been a few days and—damn it—I have to admit that it's growing on me.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:53 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

I desperately want to see the truly excellent hour-length Tales from the Crypt episode that is hidden somewhere in this movie.

It’s very pretty and it has a lot of actors for whom I have affectionate feelings putting on good performances but it didn’t need to be two and a half hours long.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:59 PM on February 14 [2 favorites]

In the final scene, when Bradley Cooper's character gets that job offer - his reaction and response is going to haunt me for a long time.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:41 PM on February 21

Gorgeous movie.

What a cast. A veritable who's who of some of my favourite supporting actors.

Tim Blake Nelson
Jim Beaver
Clifton Collins Jr.
David Strathairn
Ron Perlman
Richard Jenkins
Toni Collette
Mary Steenburgen, and others who I'm much less familiar.

Bradley Cooper a little scruffied up then transformed, Cate Blanchett the consummate professional, Willem Dafoe unbelievably ageless and energetic.

I'm absolutely ok with the length of this movie. The backgrounding and details are scrumptious.

A sticking point for me was - the carnival felt much better put together, far higher production values and a sense of permanence, than I'd expect from hearing "traveling circus." Different era and the value of labour and raw materials? Artistic liberty?
posted by porpoise at 8:58 PM on February 24

Artistic liberty. That fun house near the beginning is way too complex and mechanically sophisticated to be torn down and transported in a down-at-heel travelling show like the one we're shown.

Absolutely LOVED this movie, though. Its combination of carny setting and classic film noire was always going to pull me in, but to see it all done this well was an extra treat. I've only seen it via streaming so far, but I'll be back to see it on the big screen first chance I get. So good.
posted by Paul Slade at 4:47 PM on March 18

I desperately want to see the truly excellent hour-length Tales from the Crypt episode that is hidden somewhere in this movie.

I said nearly this exact thing to the person I watched the movie with, I just couldn't remember the name of the show. It would have been a good two-parter.

But, as a movie, I didn't like it much. It felt about four inches deep. Sometimes it was so heavyhanded with its moralizing (like showing Maureen Steenburgen's murder suicide, then having Bill Tench hear about it on the radio; or Rooney Mara's entire character) it approached an M Night Shyamalan feeling. Just didn't pull off the old timey light noir moralism for me.

Cate Blanchett's office looked nice, though the Rorschach veneer work was a bit OTT -- but also, art deco is gorgeous that way. If you fuck up making art deco look good you should just go live in a shack in the wasteland. I loved the wallpaper in the office bathroom. I don't think the carnival was very interesting looking; ruined by color grading but also, idk, just pretty straightforward, not so inspired.

I thought Toni Collette turned in a pretty bad performance and I usually like her. Fuck, she made me like Dream Horse. Everyone else is not bad, not great. And even though you can see the ending coming from a thousand miles away, in the moment, Bradley Cooper did a good job with the laugh. I think that was the only bit of acting I positively liked in the whole movie.

Overall, I dunno, it felt like a C+ story told at a B quality level. Or maybe I was just in a bad mood who can say.
posted by fleacircus at 9:01 PM on March 26

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