Last night, I got the opportunity to attend the Cannes Film Festival premiere of Ryan Gosling‘s directorial debut, Lost River. On top of actually witnessing Ryan Gosling’s jawline in person (more on that in the next few days), I wound up actually loving the film. This would not be noteworthy news if not for the fact that everyone else seemed to hate it so very much. No, really.
Just as an sampling of the types of things people are saying, here’s a bit of The Guardian‘s review. According to them, it was abysmal:
Everyone knows that superstar success means that you are surrounded by people who don’t say no to you. Perhaps the actor Ryan Gosling has been asking everyone if he should write and direct a movie influenced byDavid Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn.
… It is colossally indulgent, shapeless, often fantastically and unthinkingly offensive and at all times insufferably conceited. Yet it is frustrating precisely because it sometimes isn’t so bad. There is something in there somewhere – striking images and moments, and the crazy energy of a folie de grandeur.
Ouch. And yet, as I stood up after the film, I actually just assumed everyone would have the same “oh my goodness, that was great” opinion I did (I’m naive on occasion, particularly when it comes to art and film).
Full disclosure: I am not a film critic, nor do I claim to know a ton about movies, so I suppose if you do not wish for the opinion of an innocent film bystander, this is probably not the right review for you. While I did feel the film attempted to accomplish a little too much, I appreciated its ambition and therefore feel the need to defend Lost River–at least a bit. So, here’s why I loved it.
1. Christina Hendricks
Christina Hendricks portrays Billy, a mother who is desperate to hang onto her home in a poor, decaying part of the country where everyone is leaving and the houses are being progressively bulldozed down. Her performance is exceptionally good, just as it always is. While I wasn’t too keen on the kid who plays her son Bones (Iain De Caestecker) because I’m pretty sure Gosling cast him to look like himself, and it annoys me that he’s 26 and she’s 39 yet playing his mother, her performance made up for it. She hangs onto that same striking believability of being a woman in a terrible position that she accomplished so well as Joan in Mad Men, and I’m honestly just happy Gosling and her decided to work together again after Drive (which I also loved).
2. The Portrayal Of Catcalling
There is a brief moment in the film where Billy is holding her toddler while riding the bus and an older man is propositioning her, saying that she needs to give the kid a father and giving himself compliments. While Billy whispers, “Isn’t he funny?” to her child, she’s quietly crying, and it felt exactly how stressful and anxiety-ridden it is to be spoken to like that while on the subway. Yes, you can smile and say “thank you” and giggle in order to brush off the sexually-charged talker who’s bothering you, but there are few things more uncomfortable than being propositioned again and again, expected to respond even though all you want to do is get to work or go home.
3. The Feeling
If you ever enjoyed Gummo, Harmony Korine‘s film that is essentially about poverty without being too overzealous in meaning or self-righteousness, this had a very similar feel to it, just with a more polished finish (which is good or bad, depending on your taste). We have all seen towns decay, and perhaps we’ve even lived in those places; attempting to capture that increasing desperation to hang onto something that was once great is unsettling, but it also makes for an interesting viewing experience.
4. The Costumes
Seriously, the wardrobe for this film was incredible. One character’s grandmother wears a perfect veil that makes her appear to be constantly mourning; Bully, a psychotic gangster who cuts people’s lips off with scissors, wears a bizarre gold jacket that I now want for some inexplicable reason; Eva Mendes wears gorgeous headwear and dresses throughout her cameo. Overall, even if you hate the film itself, the production design and wardrobe are undeniably great.
5. There’s No Happy, Love Story Ending
Spoiler alert: Bad things happen. Really bad things. It is a thoroughly depressing film with a lot of awful things that happen to the women of the story. And while the ending includes a friendly cab driver taking the family away from the carnage of their former home, there isn’t a perfectly tied-up, cutesy conclusion. Somebody I was with speculated that they thought Billy would wind up with him, as so many female protagonists wind up going off with That One Nice Guy in the end. But nope, not this time, thank goodness.