A friend of mine (James Llewellyn) and I had the great idea to watch three or four Ryan Gosling movies back-to-back. Being a huge Blu-ray collector James kindly offered to provide the films if I could play host for the day. With a few other friends in attendance we agreed to the schedule: Drive, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Crazy, Stupid, Love.
I’m not going to sit here and write that this informal mini movie marathon was first and foremost about the films. The idea to watch a bunch of Ryan Gosling movies stemmed from a consensual bromantic infatuation with Gosling on screen. Having said that Gosling’s performances in Drive, The Place Beyond the Pines, and Crazy, Stupid, Love go a lot further than flaunting his pecs and flexing his muscles. He delivers some truly memorable performances, most notably in Drive and manages to tone down his off-screen fame with a touch of humility and humanity.
We agreed as a group that Drive would be the best place to start. With clear heads and lofty expectations of the afternoon’s schedule we sat down and witnessed Nicholas Winding Refn’s masterpiece.
What struck me immediately was how lucky I was to only have seen it once after its release three years ago.
What do I love most about Drive? It’s addictively stylish, beautifully crafted and incredibly fresh. Much like Gosling’s character the film offers so much more than the opening sequence. Having said that, what Refn’s opening sequence does best is tell us a great deal about the protagonist by showing it, not saying it. Gosling as the Driver, doesn’t say a single word as he leads the cops on a futile chase through the streets of L.A. Having completed his moonlight work as a getaway driver he slips out into the crowd and onto the streets and we’re left wanting more. Clouding our vision is a sense of mystery that is slowly, gradually revealed to us as the film progresses and our want is not left unsatisfied.
What our journey boils down to is an incredible connection between an introvert and the girl next door. The relationship that forms throughout the film compels it forward as the Driver becomes more and more desperate to do anything and everything to ensure that this relationship isn’t taken away from him. His private battle between a simple life and a mysterious life of crime is delivered in a strangely innocent way and as they begin to merge we begin to understand more about his character than we could have ever guessed from the opening chase. He is headstrong, committed, violent, gentle, caring, loving, and the list goes on and on. The ability to combine as many disjunctive personality traits into one character can at times be exhausting but it also makes the film what it is. Without a troubled, necessarily confusing lead character the film would go down as a typical Hollywood crime thriller that struggles to deliver more than passionate kisses and explosions. Exactly the fact that it doesn’t feel like a Hollywood film in structure and predictability make the passionate moments welcome.
Like I mentioned earlier the film is a combination of an innocent love story and a crime thriller rolled into one. With the introduction of new characters a welcome addition as the plot gets thicker we begin to root for Gosling’s unnamed character in his pursuit of justice and happiness. The perfectly constructed soundtrack lifts the film to a whole new level. Most films incorporate the soundtrack as a means to an end but what Drive does is bring the film to life, each song complementing its scene. This perfect combination pulls the film together and draws its audience in.
The Driver’s life is summed up when he admits his relationship with Irene and her son Benicio was the best thing that ever happened to him. Until that moment in his life he had no direction, no ambition and no commitments. As his dream of a simple life drifts further away from his grasp we can’t help but feel sorry for him. What makes this film a Must-See is the way it all draws together. It flows seamlessly and we are left with a feeling of relief and slight dissatisfaction. But not a negative dissatisfaction. A movie doesn’t have to be about happy endings or predictable scenes. A great movie has the ability to connect with its audience no matter the outcome.
The Place Beyond the Pines
A tale split into three. It tackles fatherhood, morality, loneliness and ambition. What it does best is present all of these throughout. I went into this film with a completely open and honestly ignorant mind and come out of it a happy man. Having unintentionally put it off for so long I was pleased to finally have the chance to sit down and take it all in and I wasn’t disappointed.
The Place Beyond the Pines or Schenectady, New York sits 72 miles north of Pine Plains in New York state. Oozing archetypal Americana, with greasy spoon cafeterias, a travelling fair and independent shops, we feel comfortable in recognisable surroundings, even if they are only recognisable on the screen. The atmospheres of both languish and triumph set the scene for the following mini trilogy.
Luke Glanton, a locally famous travelling motorcycle stuntman played by Ryan Gosling appears innocently rebellious with his tattoos and devil may care attitude. Romina (Eva Mendes) shakes this boy to his senses with the news that he is the father to six-month-old Jason. Glanton’s life suddenly demands more from him and he sets about an honest lifestyle in order to care for his son. A fortunate encounter with Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), a rural mechanic, offers Glanton a place to stay and work. Robin proposes a criminal venture involving Luke’s motorcycle prowess, a truck and the small matter of robbing banks. Eager to claim a stake in his son’s upbringing Luke can’t refuse and a successful period soon provides Luke with ample opportunity to impress and invade the lives of Romina and her new boyfriend Kofi. A violent, greedy and unlawful Luke Glanton emerges when Robin ends their partnership and the film takes a dramatic turn when we are thrown into the second part which follows Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), an overnight police hero who has his own story to tell.
In a police precinct riddled with corruption Avery struggles with a silent crisis of conscience. Battling with fatherhood, guilt, and ambition we witness how he begins to destroy old relationships and open new doors of personal progression. Abandoning loyalty and friendship Avery puts everything on the line and we get sucked into his crisis of moral dilemmas and uncomfortable situations. Not many films are able to connect the characters with the audience in such a prolific way but Derek Cianfrance succeeds in making Avery accountable and associable. What struck me the most about Avery’s character was his inability to connect with his one year old son, for those of you that have seen it you’ll understand what I mean. Don’t quote me on this but I’d say Avery’s one year old son is on screen for a matter of seconds in about a forty-five minute part. It isn’t striking in the sense that it shocked me or compelled me to question something deeper, it is a subtle touch that needn’t be elaborated on in the film because the saying ‘less is more’ couldn’t be more true. It plants the seed that the final act of the film depends on. Avery’s inability to provide for his family because his conscience haunts him on a daily basis begins to haunt us as we get thrashed around in a whirlwind of human problems that succeed in affecting his family.
Fast-forward fifteen years and the void between Avery and his son AJ (Emery Cohen) has clearly not diminished. In fact it appears to have grown worse after Avery’s failure in appeasing his conscience. The third part of this intelligent film tackles fatherhood and morality first and foremost. But it also touches on issues of anger and revenge as the repercussions of that fateful day begin to affect those who have been sheltered from the truth. AJ moves in with his father who is now running for Attorney General of New York and befriends Jason. Unbeknown to their connection a brief encounter with the authorities for drug use and possession draws them deeper into a fated relationship.
Gosling opens the film with an explosion of excitement and anxiety and what follows is a Must-See attempt to reveal humanity’s struggle with morality and conscience. At times it feels disjointed, in part due to its structure but also the difference in pace but everything happens for a reason and we are rewarded with our patience.
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Both Drive and The Place Beyond the Pines presented us with a dramatic, quiet and reserved character for Gosling. Crazy, Stupid, Love was the perfect remedy to overcome some heavy drama and finish the day off on a lighter note. Oh yeah and it has Emma Stone in it.
From the first scene we are hit with a rather heavy bombshell for a romantic comedy to start on. Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) bluntly asks her husband Cal (Steve Carrell) for a divorce in a crowded restaurant. Carrell plays a bumbling character with little self-esteem and an evident lack of direction in his life. Added to this lost lifestyle his wife slept with another man, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon) and Cal now has to face the potential start of a new life away from his children and divorced from his wife. So far the film is lacking comedy in terms of plot and there isn’t really much to feed on plot wise. But the writing and direction is superb and each serious situation is given a comedic spin to divert our attention from sullen realism. Take out the comedy and this collection of love stories would appear grotesquely saddening and shallow.
What we have instead is a marvel of scriptwriting that gives us something to root for in Cal, his children, and his friend Jacob played by the all-important Ryan Gosling. Gosling plays a character completely opposite to that of his roles in Drive and Pines. What we have is a confident extrovert with incredible tenacity, confidence and ability to pick up girls and have his shallow materialistic way with them. This is the man that sees Cal as a project, an opportunity to shut his whining out and focus on the immediate future. Through a series of Miyagi lessons Cal picks up the ability to attract women, a previously unheard of personality trait as we find out from the gossiping neighbours and friends of his wife.
The side stories that play alongside the main event contribute in specific ways, some obvious and others more subtle but each with its own impact on Cal’s life. At the centre of this confusing love *enter shape* sits Cal and Steve Carrell’s wit and humorous performance make him even more likable. The situations he gets himself into, and out of are laugh out loud funny all the way through and it really is a joy to see a rom-com and not feel bored, or unsatisfied with the predictable ending.
It isn’t the most original film in terms of basic premise, sudden divorce, period of self-discovery, win girl back, happy ending. But its structure and characters take the emphasis and pressure off one story and the combination of stories make it light hearted and appealing. Most importantly it is extremely enjoyable and has excellent rewatchability value. You won’t hear me say that too often about rom-coms on here so soak it up. This film is Brilliant and I would recommend it to anyone who fancies more of a com-rom than a rom-com.