Dir: Ryan Gosling (2015)
There’s a lot of things that can be said about Ryan Gosling‘s directorial debut; It’s derivative of so many other directors works (Harmony Korine being often left out), it’s tonally almost a one note piece, the plot and script are a little vague and the performances feel secondary to a cool, decaying, sleazy urban style. Those criticisms may be correct but the truth is that the directors named in many mocking reviews are good influences and influences on many, the one sustained tone is actually quite enjoyable, and, sure, the script is secondary but only to some well shot and atmospheric imagery.
How to Catch a Monster or the now named Lost River was booed, whipped and crucified at Cannes last year but are the jeers directed at the film or at the pretty boy actor who feels like he do more? The French festival is notorious for its mob mentality and kicking off world-wide hate/praise campaigns and, as usual, the backlash was pretty over the top. Gosling has obviously thought a lot about his first work behind the camera and even though you may not think about it too much afterwards it’s a ballsy move and in many ways an admirable piece of work in many more.
We’re in the titular town with a single mother and her two sons; Christina Hendricks is solid as the mother. One young child, a toddler who has two of the best lines in the film, and (a teenage version of the young actor/director) as Bones (Iain De Caestecker), a delinquent run-about who strips his rundown community of shiny, shiny copper to appease the town bully (Matt Smith) as, surprise, surprise, a character named Bully. Meanwhile, Hendricks’ Billy is taken away to a seedy underworld when her persuasive bank manager (the always great Ben Mendolshon) convinces her of a job at the local burlesque club.
It’s more of a thematic montage of Gosling’s loves and loses than a completely coherent picture but there is more in Lost River to admire because of who he is than in spite of it. Depending on how you look at him, of course. He may just be flexing his muscles, trying to find his style, but Gosling has made a bold film, even if it is a tiny bit dull.
The incredible and still underrated suburban masterpiece Gummo, is blatantly referenced more than once, the club Billy is taken to is obviously Lynchian in its creation but isn’t any” girl on stage” scene after Blue Velvet? A kid walking through corn in the sunset will always bring Terrence Malick to mind and the neon lights of Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn burn through a lot of the final scenes. Sure, Lost River is fraught with problems, missing pieces and an oddly unsatisfying ending but it’s filled with good intentions from someone trying to find out what he wants to say and it certainly has a strange crackle and pop to it which may surprise you. Like many of the burning houses on-screen it’s a bit of a magnificent failure.