When watching a movie, I often find myself looking for something that solidifies my interest in the work – A specific piece of dialogue, a plot twist, a well-hidden character development… Anything. But the most effective version (in my own personal opinion, anyway) is a cast of well written characters. Of course, there are exceptions that aren’t included, but in a hypothetical world, why not explore a hypothetical situation? A star cast can’t save a dreadful plot, nor can a stellar and engaging story redeem awfully delivered lines. Now in the long run, focusing more on the individual characters in the story will yield a much better result and ensure that each and every viewer has something they can rally behind. Unfortunately, the majority of films have incredible potential to capitalize upon, but can’t quite seem to hit the target.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I for one am guilty of copying the actions and behaviors of characters from some of my favorite medias. Creating a character whose actions can be easily replicated through natural personality alone will guarantee a particular demographic of individuals who enjoyed the film. To me, the film that presents you with fleshed-out characters whom harbor relatable motives is the film I find myself falling in love with more easily. It’s pretty simple, actually: A good story can take you places, but it’s the characters who get you there that make all the difference. Take for example Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Louis Bloom, in the 2014 film Nightcrawler. When we originally see him, Lou is a young man who’s down on his luck. After some initial struggle finding his purpose, he discovers his passion for a hobby in producing news video reports - One that he also happens to excel in. His awkward demeanor and social disability make him the guy that you root for in the beginning as the underdog. In other words, Lou is the hero that we want to see overcome his flaws and blossom in to something beautiful. His distraction quickly becomes an obsession after his desire to become the greatest drives Lou to adopt a more cutthroat persona
and commit morally questionable actions. This want, or rather this need, to surpass the competition is a trait I immediately found painfully familiar throughout the duration of the film. Competition springs conflict, and conflict means someone is bound to get hurt. Whether or not this someone was a person Lou considers close was none of his concern, as others would only slow him down. This reckless disregard for anything other than himself forced Lou to choose between his work and his personal life… and his choice quickly became apparent throughout the film.
Now, this is one example of many that I consider the heart behind my proposal. Noticing the talent in the performance, I didn’t feel as though I was watching a movie where Jake Gyllenhaal played a wacky and disturbed Louis Bloom. Instead, it felt as though I was experiencing a day in the life of Louis Bloom. I felt his hopelessness in his lack of profession, his painful loneliness, and his yearn for greatness. I was granted the opportunity to walk a mile in his shoes, complete with every advantage and disadvantage that accompanied. From here, a clear difference was noticeable between Gyllenhaal’s performance and other actors of his alleged caliber. There was something about the way he embraced the role, the way he allowed the character to integrate with his mind that was intoxicating. Comparing it to roles in the majority of mainstream films today, you can appreciate the time and effort Gyllenhaal puts in to study the form of Louis Bloom.
If and when you go to see your next movie (whether it be with friends or family), take the time to isolate a character. Pick your favorite, or pick whoever you feel like you relate to the most. Study their habits, their mannerisms. Take the time to understand what they want – put yourself in their headspace. How do they plan to accomplish their goals? If the answer is easily distinguishable, try to theorize how they execute said plan. Hypothesize. Think outside the box.