I have been attempting the past few days to discuss sex and the movie “Nightcrawler.” The other day, what began as an essay on that subject turned into a meditation on Lou Bloom’s evolution into a full on psychopath. The subject rises to mind once again because “Nightcrawler” director Dan Gilroy and star Jake Gyllenhaal were asked about the lack of sex in the movie at a recent media event for AOL.
The question suddenly struck me as quite juvenile. Even as I had spent a few days pondering the questions of sex and “Nightcrawler” I never once questioned why we never actually saw Gyllenhaal’s Lou and Rene Russo’s Nina actually having sex. In fact, seeing them actually consummate the relationship would have only destroyed the impact of the act.
Spoilers ahead (Seriously, why haven’t you seen this movie yet?)
In a scene that arrives late in the second act of “Nightcrawler” Lou Bloom surprises Nina, his onscreen benefactor and de facto boss by asking her out on a date. His attempt is at first fumbling and a little sad. She gently declines. The scene then takes a shocking turn as Lou, barely changing his manner from the halting, unassuming power-mad, power-nerd that we’ve watched for the run of the film, suddenly and forcefully illustrates why Nina cannot turn down his date.
Nina is the late shift news director for the last place station in Los Angeles when she first meets Lou. Now, her ratings are up and the product that he provides through his ill-gotten scoops are the reason why. Nina has nowhere left to go in her business. She’s pushing 60 years old in a cutthroat, edgy, and youth minded industry and as Lou carefully, and chillingly details, she’s bounced from station to station for years but now has little bounce left.
Nina clearly needs Lou far more than he needs her and Lou uses this power dynamic to take what he wants. It’s a devastating comeuppance for Nina, who to this point has held regard for Lou’s work but maintained an air of superiority to him. With that air shattered by Lou’s blackmail, Nina proves quite movingly vulnerable and the rest of Lou’s evolution as a true psychopath can unfold.
That powerful scene alone is more than enough. A later scene where Lou reveals that the two have indeed consummated the relationship is the final devastating note that need be played on the matter. To actually see Lou force Nina into bed would be merely gratuitous. Only the most juvenile or perverse individuals would actually need to see the sex in “Nightcrawler” to be affected by it.
It’s all there in the performances of Gyllenhaal and Russo. The devastation on Nina’s face as she realizes she can’t get out of this. The oozy, creepy intensity and satisfaction in Lou as he realizes he’s won. It’s still chilling to ponder it days after having seen the film and was a gut punch while actually watching it unfold. Who needs rumpy pumpy when you have this level of intellectual intercourse.