Nightmare Alley, Guillermo del Toro’s neo-noir adaptation of the 1946 novel, has a penchant for shadows and sleaze. The dark and gritty underside of showbiz is on display as Stan Carlisle (Bradley Cooper), a charming carnival barker with a budding dream of someday becoming a famous performer, is drifting, searching for a path, and struck by recurring nightmares of the death of his father. After falling for fellow entertainer Molly Cahill (Rooney Mara), Stan and Molly take their show on the road, moving to the big city where Stan teams up with high-profile psychologist Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) to con a series of high-society socialites with a medium scam, seemingly connecting them to lost loved ones.
Nightmare Alley is a mesmerizing film of characters haunted by memory and regret, from Stan’s nightmares of his father to the longing for the past of the socialites he cons. Each character is missing and yearning for something that they hope will make them whole. What del Toro so strikingly presents is a morality tale of how the desire to rectify the past can overwhelm our best judgment in the present, leading to disastrous consequences. R, 150 min.