* * ½
(Confusing, unfocused downer)
This confusing, unfocused downer of a movie jumps back and forth in three directions before its unsatisfying ending.
The opening scene depicts an "art" exhibit featuring morbidly obese women dancing and posing in complete nudity. We meet the owner of the gallery (Amy Adams), living an unhappy life in a very posh house, while her husband goes off to have another affair. Her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) sends her a manuscript of his first novel, which she reads as the movie jumps around in three directions: her early love affair with her ex, her present life and an enactment of the novel. That enactment is not very pleasant to watch.
A man is driving along a dark, deserted Texas road with his wife and teenage daughter when he is terrorized by three men who force him off the road. He is unable to defend his family, leading to horrible events. He spends the rest of his life pursuing the men, with the help of the local cop (Michael Shannon), who is dying of cancer. (I told you it was a real downer).
The three parts attempt to connect but fail miserably.
What's the connection between the book's plot and real life? Who are the book's characters supposed to represent and why? What is going on inside everyone's head and why?
And then there is the up-in-the-air ending, where none of the dots are connected.
Yes, the acting is good, as is some of the photography, but so what?
Rated R for profanity, violence, sex and nudity.