Nightmare Alley (2021)

Dave

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Guillermo del Toro's latest film is a remake of a Tyrone Power/Joan Blondell movie based upon William Lindsay Gresham's 1946 novel of the same name. I've not seen or read those, but upon reading about them, their narratives make more sense, despite this being 2 hours 30 minutes long (compared to the 111 minute original.) Why remake it at all, but why remake it an hour longer, and yet miss out stuff that explains it better. I like Guillermo's work, so I was expecting something better.

Anyhow, Kate Blanchett is very good, and it has a big cast - Bradley Cooper - Willem Dafoe - the Guillermo favourite, Ron Perlman - and (I couldn't work out where I'd seen him before) David Strathairn (Commander Klaes Ashford in the Expanse). I can't fault the acting and it is visually pleasing. It does a good job of the carnival scenes.

The film charts the rise and fall of a con man who works his way up in a travelling carnival. He is ambitious and has a talent for manipulating people. He leaves the carnival with Molly the "electric girl" and moves to Chicago. There, he hooks up with a female psychiatrist, who is even more dangerous than he is, and he attempts to swindle the elite and wealthy. His eventual fall is quite obviously flagged. He is told several times "never do a spook show," and even the Tarrot cards are against him, but he cares about absolutely nothing for anybody except himself, so when his downfall comes, you don't feel any sympathy at all; it's merely synchronicity. And the out-of-place info dump about the "geeks" and "nightmare alley" in the middle of the film, means that even that final twist has now become obvious.
 

Dave

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re: changes made to story
I've remembered that I actually have seen the original film before. I remember Stan making the mistake with the Wood Alcohol because as a child it almost put me off hard drink forever. In this version, taking the Wood Alcohol almost seemed a deliberate choice, and Stan is meant to be so wracked with grief over his 'mistake' that he sees the psychiatrist. Here, he doesn't seem that concerned at all, and his consultation with the psychiatrist is one of her conditions for helping him with information on his marks. There is no shotgun wedding for Stan and Molly, so Stan can't say that he was forced into taking Molly away with him. All this makes Stan seem a thoroughly unlikable and unredeemable character. His playing away with the psychiatrist behind Molly's back has no excuse, and the happy ending and reunion with Molly is removed too.
 

Hugh

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I haven't seen the films, but the original book (by William Gresham) is well worth reading.
 

Robert Zwilling

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The original movie is worth watching. The black and white format adds to the atmosphere of the story.
 

alexvss

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I'm impressed that this movie's been nominated for Best Picture (although I shouldn't be, I hate awards :LOL:). It was the first and only time I dozed off at the movie theater.
 

Guttersnipe

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I loved it. It's a great contemporary example of a psychological thriller. An interesting choice of Guillermo's, considering his speculative past projects. The cinematography is beautiful, as always.
 

Le Panda du Mal

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I saw the original a long time ago (maybe 15 + years?). I remember I loved it but little else. I loved Guillermo's film too. I have seen some criticize it as "style over substance." I'm not sure what that even means. Bradley Cooper generally irritates me but I actually liked him in this film, which is quite an accomplishment in itself. Sometimes I'm just happy to see a beautiful picture that isn't 90% CGI. Anyways I keep telling myself that the more Oscar nominations Del Toro gets, the closer he gets to making At the Mountains of Madness. Probably delusional.
 

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