In this respect, it's rather a courageous tone to strike, and if it succeeds it's on the strength of the performances alone. The whole principal cast is great, but mainly surefire Best Actor nominee Casey Affleck, whose face is like a living oil-on-canvas with textures in every corner that you'd want to spend hours examining.
It's still highly worthy of your time, and not just if (like me) you're an Oscar completist knowing that it's likely to figure into the conversation for several top categories, Best Picture included.
Quick thoughts on a pair of other late November screenings:
The Edge of Seventeen may not make a huge dent in the pantheon of high school movies (or in the box office, due to its unwise release date), but writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig announces herself as a fresh and promising voice. Her tragicomic tale of teenaged outsider Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) may show signs of first-feature patchiness, especially in the soap operatic third act that threatens to illegitimize the character's pain, but otherwise treads a fine line between comic jadedness and earned empathy. Steinfeld is the real reason to see it though. I'd call her a revelation had True Grit not already alerted us to her talent six years ago. She's truly come into her own with this complex comedic performance, tasked with the challenge of making us relate to and root for a character who is far from entirely likable. What she delivers is at once caustic and heartbreaking, knowing exactly when to play for laughs, play for tears, or both.
A Globes nomination is the least that she deserves.
If Arrival wasn't enough to satisfy your Amy-Adams-acting-by-herself cravings, you also have the option of checking out Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals, but buyer beware. I admired Ford's 2009 debut A Single Man for more than just Colin Firth's performance, but found myself very mixed on this audacious follow-up. On the one hand, Ford is taking ambitious steps as a storyteller, playing with chronology and imagery to occasionally interesting effect. But much (if not most) of what we see also smacks of hollow provocation and empty style. The gaze he casts upon all his characters is cruel and nihilistic beyond reason at times. Aesthetically, it's a mixed bag as well. I dug McGarvey's cinematography and Korzeniowski's score, but a lot of editing choices baffle. Still, through all its stylish ugliness, it held me.