Just Drive, She Said! ***

My husband & I were in Chicago recently, as I attended a conference and he enjoyed a well deserved vacation. After a filling dinner of Chicago-style deep dish pizza, we decided to take advantage of the novelty of being sans kids and caught a movie. It was a Ryan Gosling smorgasborg with “Drive” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love” on the marquee. I wanted the latter title, but the time was too late, so I settled on the former, much to my husband’s delight.

My familiarity with Ryan Gosling was pretty much restricted to occasional episodes of “Young Hercules” on TV 13 years ago (now streaming on Netflix). However, I have been acutely aware that this young Canadian actor has come a long way since then with an academy award nomination under his belt (Half Nelson). Because “Drive” had been well reviewed, I thought “Why not?” despite my general disdain for Hollywood car chase scenes.

Ryan Gosling is an unnamed laconic loaner in this neo-noir film. He works in a garage, drives stunt cars for movies and also avails himself as a getaway wheelman to those who may require such a service. His character is a complex array of gentle kindness, as demonstrated to his neighbor (Carey Mulligan)and brutal violence as demonstrated to those who pose a threat. This movie defies Hollywood conventions when Irene’s husband returns home from doing time in jail. Despite the obvious attraction between the 2 neighbors, the return of the husband does not dissolve into a predictable testosterone-laden pissing contest. In fact, the opposite happens when Gosling’s character extends himself in ways that go well beyond his self interest to help his neighbors. Of course, all hell breaks loose in a stylistic, brutally violent (my eyes were covered for those parts, I know, the irony of that is not lost on me) and poignant fashion and I can’t say more without risking spoiling the plot.

The acting is superb, the dialogue is sparse and yet I did not mind as it rang true to the characters. What I really enjoyed was how the attraction between Gosling and Mulligan was handled. At 100 minutes, no time is wasted in this film, yet the relationship progresses at a realistic pace and the car chases are not prolonged. This contrasts with many films that have couples falling into bed so quickly, only to advance the plot and car chases that are simply filler (whoo hooo look what we can do with CGI). These latter scenarios are boring and predictable. This film is neither.

I really enjoyed this neo-noir film, with its retro-1980’s stylistic elements (electronic music score, pink script credit font) and flawed characters. Ryan Gosling’s character is the epitome of cool; his performance is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood. Carey Mulligan plays Irene with an understated sensitivity. As a bonus, Bryan Cranston (3 time Emmy winner for Breaking Bad) plays a great supporting role and the always amazing Christina Hendricks (TV’s Mad Men bombshell) is barely recognizable in a brief but pivotal role.

As for “Crazy, Stupid, Love”, we did see it the following evening and it was ok. Not worth paying for a babysitter, and not worth me spending much time discussing its merits and flaws. The performances are great (Gosling, Steve Carrell, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Kevin Bacon, Marisa Tomei). But they could not elevate this above some really clichéd plot devices and a creepy endorsement of stalker-like behavior. It’s a rental.

*** The title is borrowed from a favorite Stan Ridgway song, check it out here
Please avoid the online trailer as it ruins all the best moments of the film, I just viewed it now, thinking I would post a link but decided against it, it would have ruined the expereience for me if I had seen it ahead of time. What is wrong with Hollywood trailers? Sigh.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Greg
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 09:16:58

    Ha! The guy flick beats the chick flick! Not that I ascribe to such ridiculous, misogynistic stereotypes. Drive was a lot of fun and a nice break from Hollywood action movies. Crazy, Stupid Love was too cute for its own good and I didn’t buy the movie message at all: Be a creepy stalker and eventually the girl will say yes.


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