ABOUT THE ONLY thing this film gets right, besides the stunning cinematography that almost makes seeing it worthwhile–I said almost— is the title. Never has the word “crawler” been used more appropriately, bringing to mind all sorts of creepy, unsavory, slimy things of the night. Sadly, Jake Gyllenhaal does a bang-up job as Louis Bloom, a repulsive insect. I may never like him again, which is sad because I always counted him among my favorite actors. But in this film he’s a sociopathic, half-demented weirdo with no redeeming qualities, and that’s being kind.
As a petty thief looking for a career, our hero stumbles onto a late-night car crash and is fascinated by the news photographers who show up to film the grisly scene. Watching them, he gets the idea that he could to the same thing himself. And so, being a self-described “quick learner,” next thing you know he’s got himself a cheap camcorder and is scurrying around L.A. looking for tragedy to record and sell to the local news.
There are so many loopholes in the script it’s a wonder I didn’t fall through one and end up in John Malkovich’s brain. For example, how does Lou pay the rent for his crummy apartment? How come he doesn’t know a soul? And just what rock did he crawl out from under? (We are given no background information on him, other than his name.) But the question you will ask yourself continually is what the heck is wrong with his eyeballs? They bulge out in a monstrous way, and you’re stuck watching the whites of his eyes, complete with little red veins, in every close-up. Are they fake? Is it Halloween again? What’s going on? And why are the L. A. police so slow to show up for everything? Lou beats them to the crime scene every time, despite the fact that he’s listening to their police radio and hearing alerts the same time they do. Are they all out getting donuts?
Bloom thinks nothing of killing people, be they friend or foe, to get ahead, or using extortion as a path to sexual gratification. The object of his affection is Nina, played by Rene Russo looking haggard and quite unattractive, in part due to about a pound of blue eye shadow apparently applied with a palette knife. (Again with the eyes!) Nina, another creepy crawler, is an unsavory TV news director who wants videos of the goriest, most heinous things out there to increase her station’s ratings. Bloom is her man. Together they work their black magic; Bloom’s wallet grows fatter as Nina’s ratings rise.
Halfway through, my husband, a major rubbernecker who likes to see gore as much as the next guy, whispered to me that “this is so dumb” and that he could “leave at any time.” I promised him that things would improve, having heard that Gyllenhaal was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. Sadly, things went from bad to worse. Now, besides all the negative images in my head, my husband was once again proven right. I hate that.
Andrea Rouda, a frequent MyLittleBird contributor, blogs at “Call Me Madcap!”