Internet says Ryan Gosling hangs out with the wrong people. Not a headline from the Onion. Gosling is on lists enumerating actors who made questionable career moves in 2014. In Internet’s learned opinion, writing and directing Lost River was that move.
His directorial debut smacks of everyone he’s worked with. Gosling admits to David Lynch‘s work being a formative influence. Then there’s Terence Malick. Gaspar Noé. Of course Nicholas Winding Refn who, along with Guillermo del Toro, encouraged him to make this film.
Wrong career move though? Agree to disagree and no respect intended.
Back in the day The Notebook landed Gosling on the heartthrob map. Then Lars and the Real Girl set his indie cred compass. Whatever indie has ever meant. The man was in an episode of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.
As the saying goes, “no small roles…”. If his last five years of work haven’t satisfied, that’s on you. He’s worked with directors who take chances and don’t feel a need to trivialize story or character, maintaining their uppity, singular visions. Derek Cianfrance‘s Blue Valentine and its only slighter lesser companion Place Beyond the Pines. Refn’s fakeout action film Drive and the cool and heartless conundrum Only God Forgives.
Gosling had a lock on the sad loner who’s harboring regret and those are some soulful eyes, but remember that compass heading. He took a chance and told a story of his own. Like James Franco and his ongoing Faulkner jones.
There’s no work in the city of Lost River. Houses deteriorate and people are leaving. The bank is calling in the loan on Billy, a single mom whose eldest son Bones strips copper from crumbling buildings to get money for car parts. Bones wants out so he tries to stay off the radar of sadistic thug Bully, who fancies the bones of this town his own scrapyard fiefdom. Lonely girl Rat, a neighbor living with her mute grandmother, tells Bones when the city reservoir was flooded years ago a curse was put in place and that if a relic can be brought back from the town at the bottom of the lake, the curse would be lifted. The only way Billy can pay the bank is by working the “shells” in the bowels of an evil cabaret and Bully is coming for bloody retribution. Where the street ends, the forest encroaches and Bones paddles out on the water.
It’s a messy, uneven endeavor but no odder than anything of Lars von Trier‘s and Gosling did without the self immolating press conference cat-and-mouse von Trier usually pulls. After catcalls at Cannes and in print from critics, even a re-cut received no respect.
Cinematographer Benoît Debie (Spring Breakers, Enter the Void, The Runaways) gets the film to breathe and pulse and there’s a working class ache at its core that’s a little labored. He got people he was comfortable working with and who were game. Christina Hendricks as Billy, Saoirse Ronan as Rat and Matt Smith, a universe away from Doctor Who, enjoying himself no end. Ben Mendelsohn‘s scene stealing bank officer “slash” nightmare burlesque proprietor may steal a little from Dean Stockwell‘s Blue Velvet gig but… you know… but nothing. Mendelsohn’s great.
Gosling created a good, dark thing, whatever first timer’s influence-heavy shenanigans occur. Like a more horrific and modern take on a Ray Bradbury story, not nice things occur, but in Gosling’s strangely natured and at times gruesome allegory there’s compassion and a fan’s love of the medium. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 5/5/15