About his character and the way he plays him, I'll put it this way using a famous Hollywood character. If it was 1959 and Alfred Hitchcock was auditioning young actors to play Norman Bates in Psycho, to be released the following year, this performance in Nightcrawler would've been Jake Gyllenhaal's audition.
Lou's madness makes him money. He feeds off the misfortune of others at night in order to shoot footage to sell to a local Los Angeles news director, played terrifically by Rene Russo.
This is a juicy role for an actress over 40 or 50. This news director is smart and good at her job. However, she's an executive given an overnight shift. The "zombie" shift, if you will. And her contract expires soon. She's a middle-aged woman who needs to boost ratings for her early morning newscast in order to re-negotiate her contract, stay employed and be able to keep up her healthcare payments. Such is the financial state of society today. Rene Russo rates Oscar nomination consideration for this performance.
In Haskell's Medium Cool world, truth is fiction. That same thing applies to Lou Bloom's world in Nightcrawler.
He has no journalistic background. He didn't even watch the news on a daily basis. He doesn't read news publications. We get images of violence in Los Angeles. We get talk about class and race -- and those talks really made me say "Wow!" when watching Nightcrawler.
I've been watching a lot of network morning news lately. Blondes seems to be highly prized by news executives. On one network show in particular, I've noticed the pretty blonde anchors and contributors, the blondes who gives soundbites in taped features as experts or spokespersons, the blondes in pop entertainment news or the young missing blondes in news stories. Where I do regularly see black and Latino men? In the local affiliate's newscasts. Specifically, in surveillance tape footage that shows minority men committing crimes. This irritates me. I wondered if I'm the only viewer who notices how frequently we minorities are shown in the surveillance tape crime footage.
There is a conversation between Lou and the news director after he sells his first piece of news footage. It's about how the local news is presented -- and it made me think of the local newscasts I've watched recently. The subtext in this early newsroom payment scene is about causing fear and maintaining privilege. Crimes against the "affluent" and "upscale" get the headlines and ratings. Crimes against minorities in working class, non-affluent neighborhoods don't. Lou Bloom represents a soullessness in the post-Network world of TV news. We're now in the age of social media.
Jake Gyllenhaal really gives you some food for thought in this film. His performance is compelling. The more mentally unhinged Lou gets, the more money he makes. His eyes are large but there's not really a connection in them. He doesn't connect to people. He doesn't care about people. His charm can be creepy but he's good for business. Gyllenhaal gives Bloom an unusual body language and rhythm. There's something dissonant about it.
One does wonder why no one in the news department did a background check on him. He did a background check on the news team.
One thing that really hit me about Nightcrawler is that Lou Bloom, a crazy criminal and a young white guy, could charm his way into a corporate job -- working for a TV news operation -- move up and make top dollar. He has power over a minority (his video partner) and a middle-aged woman (the news director). And he influences the presentation of racial and class images on the TV station's newscast. Louis Bloom is the privileged white male.
THAT was major. Nightcrawler is worth your attention. Rene Russo is perfect for the role. She is one fine actress and this film shows her in top form. She gives one of the best lead female performances I've seen in an American film this year.
There are two stand-out supporting performances in Nightcrawler. One from Riz Ahmed as the responsible, poor, constantly criticized Hispanic partner to Lou Bloom ....
And check out Haskell Wexler's 1969 film, Medium Cool.