Lost River – 2 out of 5
Ryan Gosling seems almost unstoppable in so many aspects of his existence. The dude is a talented actor and his smoldering good looks make it impossible for anyone with a pulse to not fall in love with him. The man is such the definition of perfection that any mildly cynical or jaded individual would find themselves saying, "There has to be some cracks in his armor." Well, if you’re that type and you’re looking for something wrong with the guy you can look no further than his first attempt at writing and directing with Lost River.
|"I'm going to go find my own lost river...with blackjack and hookers!"|
In a rundown area of Detroit, Billy (Christina Hendricks) is trying to keep her home so there’s a place for her and her sons; Franky and Bones (Iain De Caestecker), but the bank is doing everything it can to take her home away with the rest of the homes in the neighborhood. Billy pleads with a banker (Ben Mendelsohn) to let her keep the home but he offers her another option: A job at a dark and disturbing gentlemen’s club he owns. Meanwhile, Bones is spending his time running from a local thug calling himself Bully (Matt Smith) and getting to know a neighbor girl named Rat (Saoirse Ronan). She lets him know about a nearby town that was flooded after a reservoir was built and, according to her, a beast resides under the waves and if its head was removed, the curse that rests on the underwater city would be removed. After learning about what his mother is doing to keep the house, Bones realizes that this course of action might not only lift the town’s curse but his family’s own.
|Streetlights on for safety in the Lost River.|
Being a fan of Gosling and a huge Doctor Who fan, I was a little curious about this film when I first heard of it. I was curious to see how Gosling would handle his first film and I was even more curious to see Matt Smith in a role beyond the Doctor. I was a little disappointed on both fronts. Lost River, from the synopsis, sounds like it has enough drama to be intriguing but enough mystery with a dash of fantasy to make it something that will challenge the viewer with its story. However, the entire film feels like it is going nowhere very slowly as it takes its time developing stuff but, at the same time, feels like it never truly develops anything. For example, the underwater city doesn’t come into play for quite awhile and then it barely feels like a benchmark in the activities of the story. Then you have the lackadaisical ways that characters and their development are introduced. None are really introduced or developed in any solid or compelling way. Short sequences are added and almost act like quick routes to character development and it results in characters that were nearly impossible for me to really care about or even get invested in. For example, Rat and Bones develop a bit of a love angle but the courting segment feels like a quick throwaway scene that is not much longer than a slightly-longer-than-usual .gif. After that point, they are suddenly inseparable and it was at that point I realized I knew more about them as a couple than I did as them as individuals (and all I knew about them was they might or might not be boyfriend/girlfriend). However, it’s not like the characters were very deep to begin with as every character is nearly universally summed up by a single character attribute.
|I was a little weirded out hearing the Eleventh Doctor swear.|
|His dance sequence is the best part of the film...and no, that's not a joke.|
There is literally a dance sequence.
Visually, the film looks great. With the exception of some really poor quality shots that are so muddy that it’s impossible to see what’s going on—
|I can't really tell you if what we are looking at is important to the plot and story.|
Aside from that, the film looks great and it’s very obvious that Gosling was heavily inspired by the man who directed him in Only God Forgives and Drive; Nicolas Winding Refn (and there’s clearly some David Lynch inspiration going on with the more out-there sequences in the gentlemen's club). However, this inspiration starts to work against the film because I found myself wondering how much is inspiration and how much was just flat-out stealing/borrowing? While the film looks good and there’s a great soundtrack making everything feel unsettling and disturbing, there’s a severe lack of originality and I saw something that appears to be more of a Refn film and found nothing that I can see becoming a trademark of Gosling’s potential future in filmmaking.
|Christina Hendricks, how come we don't see you in more things? |
You're talented, dammit.
Lost River is definitely a unique movie when it concerns story but that’s really where the positives stopped for me. The film looks too much like a Refn film, the story takes way, WAY too long to get going (and even then, never felt like it went anywhere), the development of the plot and characters are spotty at best and the characters are flat and results in performances that really aren’t terrible but are not very spectacular either (which is a shame because the cast is filled with talented people). For Gosling’s first attempt at writing and directing a film, Lost River could have been infinitely worse due to inexperience. However, it’s clear that Gosling does have a decent grasp on the technical aspects of filmmaking and, hopefully with time, his writing will improve and we’ll get to see more originality with his visuals and see a truly terrific film from the sickeningly-handsome-to-the-point-I-hate-myself-because-I-can’t-compete man.