Nightcrawler is a solid script. I quantify it that way knowing the description is more diminutive than superlative. I read it because the trailer intrigued me and I wanted to see if there were anything backing up that intrigue. I left the script unsatisfied but in a generic way.
The protagonist, Lou Bloom (1), is a marvel of characterization. “Bloom” is the perfect last name for the man Dan Gilroy draws with his keyboard. Lou spreads like a virus, or a mushroom cloud. He defies attempts to fit him into a usual sort of DSM illness. He’s a banquet of symptoms that somehow remains consistent. At times he reads as autistic at other times you’d accuse him of being a psychological savant. How Mr. Gilroy managed this feat of prestidigitation is beyond my ability to analyze.
As proof of this, I offer up that most of what Lou does during the script is morally repugnant. He lies, cheats, steals, moves to the side so that his partner [and one of two candidates for friend] can be shot three times at close range. Lou does this ON PURPOSE so that his partner CAN BE SHOT. He causes a van full of “Nightcrawling” competitors to crash– with serious-to-fatal injuries for all inside. He allows a Wendy’s full of innocent bystanders to be riddled with bullets… and on and on. Lou isn’t an anti-hero or even a garden variety sociopath. He’s more like a completely self-satisfied instrument of his own gratification.
So, how can we root for Him?
I don’t know how screenwriter Dan Gilroy manipulates the strings to get the right answer when he insists on using all the wrong materials, but he does. The mystery is in wanting to know if this author is going to allow his creation to be his own divinity. When Lou “wins” at Fade Out, I confess to feeling like I had been deceived. Not because I insist on the triumph of good over evil, I don’t. I felt this way because the end turned the script into nothing more than a very long exercise in how to write a great character. In other words, the story of Lou the President of Video News is just so much cardboard.
Nightcrawler has no clearly defined theme. This, in my opinion, is its flaw.
Let’s look at one exchange of dialogue to see what I mean. From page 87:
Alright then. Now I feel good about it.
Now I’ll go the extra mile. You never
understood that, that’s been the problem.
You gotta bring people in, man. I’m
serious. You gotta talk to ‘em like
they’re human beings. I’m saying this to
help you, dude, for the future. ‘Cause
you got a seriously weird ass way of
looking at shit. You know you do. I
mean you know what your trouble is? You
don’t fucking understand people.
It becomes an exchange three pages later when we get this:
What if my problem wasn’t that I don’t
understand people but that I don’t like
them? What if I was the kind of person
who was obliged to hurt you for this? I
mean physically. I think you’d have to
believe afterward, if you could, that
agreeing to participate and then backing
out at the critical moment was a mistake.
Because that’s what I’m telling you, as
clearly as I can.
If Lou is to be believed then: Lou is a creature who exists solely for self-gratification [read as, he is his own god] because he doesn’t like people. For Lou, the only person worth his time is: himself. Even laying aside the obvious Kantian objection that this is world one can’t will, this is a script-universe with nothing worthwhile in it. Lie, cheat, steal, and kill, this is what Nightcrawler offers– only this and nothing more.
Read the script because the dialogue and characterization OF LOU are both outstanding.
Rating– Worth The Read
1 I can never read “Bloom” as a last name without thinking of James Joyce. If I am intended to think of this, Mr. Gilroy owes us more to pay off the allusion.