Drive (2011) Review

1 02 2012

Copyright 2011 Bold FIlms

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Drive is an extremely stylized film that borrows heavily from two different, yet quite separate, eras of American cinema: the 1940s and the 1980s.  From the 1940s, the film borrowed heavy traits in its presentation from the popular film noir genre that was at its peak during this era; the soundtrack, filming style and titling attributes were all borrowed from 40 years later in the 1980s, giving off a very reminiscent feel to such films as De Palma’s Scarface.  However, as much as I appreciate high stylization for certain films, it does take more than that to be a truly great movie.

Ryan Gosling plays our unnamed hero, a part-time mechanic, part-time movie stunt driver and part-time driver for criminal activities.  When performing the latter, he has a very standard set of rules which he abides, that are not to be broken.  At the body shop, he works for a man named Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who assists him at times and has a history of being involved with criminals like Bernie Rose (Albert Brooks) and Nino (Ron Perlman).  Shannon enlists Rose’s help in the amount of $300,000 to fund a stock racing car idea, with Gosling’s character being the driver.  Around this same time, Gosling’s character meets his next door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son Benicio (Kaden Leos).  He finds that she lives alone with her son because her husband Standard (Oscar Isaac) is in prison, and he and Irene develop a certain relationship together.  Upon Oscar’s return, Gosling character (wouldn’t this be easier if he had a name) finds out that Oscar was indebted to some guys from prison who are now threatening his life, as well as Irene and Benicio’s.  To help, Gosling’s character agrees to be the driver for a job that will clear Oscar of his debts and save Irene and Benicio.  Unfortunately, however, the job ends up going very wrong.

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn, this film, as mentioned earlier, is highly stylized and the handling of the visuals works great for the type of picture it is.  Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography further helps to develop the polished look of the movie, and there many shots throughout that I was very impressed with.  I think in a lesser year for cinematography, Sigel would have had a good chance at getting a nomination for this film.  Yet, polished looks aside, the story only held my attention to a degree.  It was interesting and I liked the film alright, but it wasn’t spectacular by any means.  Gosling did a good job in the lead role, as did Albert Brooks.  Again, however, Brook’s adoration for his role as Bernie Rose is a bit overrated in my book.  Yes, it was a good performance, but it wasn’t anything to write home about; we’ve all seen that character before.

I can see how many people really loved this film, and I can see how some didn’t care for it at all.  My opinion falls somewhere in between; it was good, but I’ve seen a dozen films off the top of my head with the same basic elements that I thought were better.

Crazy Stupid Love (2011) Review

2 12 2011

Copyright 2011 Carousel Productions

★ ★ ★ ★

Maddie rented this movie at the Redbox and I knew very little about what the premise was, but was in the mood for something light (our other choice for the night was Tarkovsky’s Stalker which is nowhere near ‘light’).  In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with this film.

In the first scene of the film, Emily Weaver (Julianne Moore) tell her husband, Cal Weaver (Steve Carell), that she wants a divorce over dinner.  After 25 years of marriage, the news is a complete shock to him and he further finds out in the car that she has been having an affair with a colleague from work, David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon).  Defeated, he eventually moves from the house and begins going to bars, where he runs into the suave lothario Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling), who because of Cal’s reminiscence of his father, he decides to “show the ropes” of picking up women.  Without ruining the fun of the film, there are other side stories, all dealing with the notion of love, that interweave and eventually culminate at the end.

Though the film is a bit disjointed at times, it does tie itself up and make for a very pleasing end product.  Though I hate to use the words light in a positive manner, this film is a light, fun and interesting romantic comedy.  There are a few things in the presentation that keep this from being a really amazing comedy, but even with its shortcomings the film still holds a nice amount of charm and wit.


Blue Valentine (2010) Review

10 05 2011

Copyright 2010 Hunting Lane Films and Silverwood Films

★ ★ ★ ★

So, this movie was kind of what I was expecting in a lot of ways, but in a lot of other ways a lot different than I would have imagined.  I knew it was going to be a low-budget indie flick, but I was not expecting the level of emotion presented in the film.  Based on the ads, it seemed like it was being marketed as a light romantic comedy; that assessment couldn’t be further from the truth.  This film is definitely an emotionally charged drama in every sense of the definition.

The premise is fairly simple: Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) are a couple; their relationship is told in a series of flash forwards to the present day and flash backs from when they first met.  Honestly, that’s exactly what the logline of this film would have to be; it’s that simple.  In present day, Dean, a painter with no education and sort of “from the streets”, and Cindy, a nurse who once had aspired to be a doctor, live a fairly normal lower-middle to middle class life.  They have a kid, Frankie (Faith Wladyka), between them and seem to have a very stressed relationship together, though they both very much love their daughter.  In the flash back sequences, we see student, Cindy, and mover, Dean, falling in love.  The two characters are vastly different from their past selves to their present selves in how they behave in general and towards each other.  Essentially, this film is the tale of Dean and Cindy falling in love and, much later, falling out of love.

Like I said, this is a very straight forward plot.  Story-wise, direction-wise and cinematography-wise, there isn’t really anything stand out about this film from any other well-made indie drama/romance.  What sets this film apart and what makes it so well revered by critics, in my opinion, are the performances by Gosling and Williams.  They truly make this film; each of them portray the characters with such vital realism that you truly feel like you are experiencing the emotions they are going through on screen.  By the time the film was done, both Maddie and I were literally mentally and physically exhausted.

This is not a perfect film, but definitely a jewel of independent cinema.  It’s films like these that come along and make the careers of some young director, this time Derek Cianfrance, that keep all the rest of us in the game, constantly forcing ourselves to create a better and better product to compete.

%d bloggers like this: