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Nightmare Alley

February 12, 2022

Nightmare Alley (2021)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Actors: Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara

Nightmare Alley Has One of the Great Film Noir Endings in Cinema | Den of  Geek

Synopsis: Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), a man with a murky backstory, becomes a carny on a travelling circus. He slowly ingratiates himself in the strange world of its inhabitants and learns to become a decent psychic-cum-conman. When he leaves the circus with his girlfriend, Molly (Rooney Mara), and starts making big money with his act in the outside world, he gets caught up in the dealings of a classic femme fatale, Lilith (Cate Blanchett).

Review: This passable noir homage has a lot going for it. It’s one of those throwback Hollywood productions stacked with star names giving pleasing performances in the forefront and fringes of its story, and it has this alluring, slow-burn quality to the narrative – especially in its first half.

As I watched it, it felt quite Burtonesque to me, particularly reminiscent of his Big Fish which is another tale about artifice, hucksterism and the American Dream. Rather than Tim Burton though, I almost would have preferred if the film had gone more in the direction of David Lynch, as its second half becomes more conventional in a narrative sense as it ties its central character up in a scam that leads him to an end destination that I, at least, found quite predictable based on key hints from the circus scenes. Even if its fantasy subject matter devolves too neatly into this genre framework, it’s still a pleasurable piece of craftsmanship from del Toro, and hats off to Cate Blanchett for her performance that was a real echo of classic film noir femme fatales such as Barbara Stanwyck and Lana Turner. (February 2022)

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