Movie Review: Nightmare Alley (2021)

Synopsis: A 1940s carnival worker and grifter, Stanton Carlisle, learns how to use coded words and body language to pass himself off as a clairvoyant and, two years later, makes a living performing his act for the wealthy elite. Against his girlfriend/partner Molly's objections, Stanton decides to take the act one step further by partnering with an unscrupulous psychiatrist, Dr. Lillith Ritter, and using her patients' private secrets to pretend to talk to their deceased relatives.

Who's in it? The movie stars Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe and Rooney Mara.


Review: My wife and I saw a preview for this movie a few months ago and thought it looked interesting. So, when I found it at our local library last week, I decided to check it out. Overall, it was an OK film, though not quite as good as we hoped it would be.

The overall plot was unique and interesting. I especially liked how the film went through a great deal of effort to show how a grifter like Stanton (Cooper) could pretend to be psychic and be convincing enough to fool even someone who is well-educated.

The fact the movie doesn't fill the viewer in on everything about Stanton's past until the very end also adds an intriguing element. All we really know is he burned a house down with a body in it (presumably his father) but none of the details leading up to that. Was he a murderer? Or was there something else going on?

I also thought Cate Blanchett did an awesome job as Dr. Ritter. She portrayed the character in a way that made it difficult to read her motivations. Part of me suspected she would end up betraying Stanton but, at the same time, she seemed like a character that might wind up riding off into the sunset with him.

The movie does tend to drag on at certain points, to the point it could have easily been 30-45 minutes shorter without doing any damage to the story it was telling. My wife and I also thought the ending was kind of predictable. In fact, my wife pretty much guessed what would end up happening to Stanton at least 30 minutes before it did. This, in turn, did take a little something away from what should have been a surprised ironic twist.

Final Opinion: There was a lot to like about this film. However, there were plenty of scenes we probably could have just fast forwarded through, making me think the movie could have used a little more editing.

My Grade: B-

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