Sunday, March 04, 2012

That thing to your right? Yeah, it's the gear shift. Speed up, already: "Drive"

Oh, hi. How have you been? Me? Good, good. Just, you know, doing a few things. Sorry it's been so long, but I'm here now, right? So let's roll.

What better way to fire up Ye Olde Movie Blog again than with a film that stank of uber-cool last year. "Drive" features everyone's favorite pouty hunk, Ryan Gosling, as a professional driver -- movie stunts by day, crime by night -- who gets tangled up in both a neighbor's domestic situation AND organized crime. Man ... can't a brother just drive his car and keep it at that?

You know you're going to get some retro vibes and a serious noir-on right out of the gate. There's the cold open of a car chase followed by the silly cursive font in the credits followed by a lot of heavy instrumental music meant to convey deep thoughts and emotions. At least, that's what I was guessing, since there were a lot -- A LOT -- of lingering shots with people not saying much. But hey, it's L.A. People there are so low-key.

Out story has Gosling the driver trying to balance his two careers when he meets a comely neighbor (Carey Mulligan) and her little boy. The man of the house is in jail, but as things get a wee bit serious, he shows up. And is a peach. That puts our hero in the position of getting more involved than he normally would, as we are clearly told he is a professional who doesn't give a fig about the people he does business with. But this girl ... she's different. Why else would he just look at her, and she him?

Of course, things go askew, and Gosling has to get his hands dirty. Will this end well? Did you not see the cursive script? It's ironic, you dimwits!

I joke, but "Drive" was a bit disappointing. I'm a Gosling fan, but let's be honest .... there wasn't a lot of acting here. Yes, he's done well playing the understated card, but no way this matches up to "Lars and the Real Girl" or "Half-Nelson." And as we saw in "Blue Valentine," "Crazy, Stupid, Love" and even "The Ides of March," he can emote somewhat. No question the guy's a good actor. But this role wasn't really for a good actor.

Mulligan has much the same problem. She has the wounded bit down pat, and I trust she split her paycheck between Michelle Williams and Gwenyth Paltrow, since she channeled both of them throughout. That's not to say she was lacking, but just not bringing anything particularly original or amazing to the party.

No, for that you have to go with Albert Brooks, who plays one of the villains. Yes ... Albert Brooks ... villain. I know! Aaron Altman is all growns up. This is the most excited I've been about a Brooks performance since "Out of Sight." (And please don't tell me you haven't seen that. Just step away, go to Netflix, Amazon, whatever and make it right.) He arrives with some typical subtle kvetching but soon shows he's a different cat than in previous roles. And God bless him for that.

In the end, "Drive" is definitely watchable and even kind of good. I just wonder if all the heavy-handed film-school techniques could have been dropped so this would have been a solid short film. What's that? Longing looks and moody music DO convey motivation and understandable reasons for people's actions? And I shouldn't even think of questioning a movie whose hero wears a silk jacket with a scorpion on the back? Got it. Noted.


At 12:21 AM, Anonymous Soo Pod Ray said...

I watched this the other night, too. It's okay. The concept owes a nod to Walter Hill's -- yes, that Walter Hill -- "The Driver," although the stories themselves aren't that similar. Regarding the title font and music, both reminded me of '80s movies like Michael Mann's "Thief" and John Landis' "Into the Night." As you mentioned, Albert Brooks was terrific, and Ron Pearlman and Bryan Cranston weren't far behind. Gotta agree with you on Gosling, though: As much as I like him, his character here was only slightly less emotionally stunted than Dustin Hoffman's Raymond Babbitt ... although still probably a more excellent driver.

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Jefferson said...

I've actually had "Thief" on my DVR for a few months now. Might be time to watch it. For font continuity sake, of course.

At 9:34 PM, Anonymous slumus lordicus said...

Albert Brooks playing a villian? He has played one of the best villians of all time; Hank Scorpio.
My movie companion cousin (the only one I can get to go to the movies late night during the week)summed up this movie up the best. "That movie was so LA."
The elevator scene was boss and as disturbing as the curb stomp scene in American History X.


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