Continuing in the build up to Blade Runner 2049 [read our review here], Tom Jolliffe takes a look at the essential Ryan Gosling…
In the past decade, Ryan Gosling has seen something of a transformation. He’s developed into an actor who can be relied upon to deliver a note worthy performance. He’s gone from being a romantic leading man to someone of diverse and dramatic range. An actor able to do quiet intensity as well as something more theatrical.
Blade Runner 2049 will see Gosling take a step into not only blockbuster territory but an iconic film world with a 35 year legacy. He’s never been one to do something lightly, and the step into the mega budget film arena was only ever going to be carefully chosen. It goes without saying though, that the combination of a returning Ford, Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins probably made this one a no brainer, even if the decision to step onto such hallowed ground is fraught with peril. If the early responses ring true, then it appears that this decision, for all, has paid off handsomely.
So, in no particular order, for the unaffiliated (about 3 people left on the planet probably), this is the essential Ryan Gosling:
This is Gosling’s most cult film. It’s one that is close to being iconic. From divisive director, Nicolas Winding Refn, this is everything that Refn does well, without quite the alienating subversive nature of some of his other works. His last two certainly have become entirely metaphorical, subconscious affairs.
Drive fused in the crowd pleasing action, memorable character actors and cool soundtrack which perfectly melded art-house with action heist. It indulges the director in his visions, whilst appreciating an audience is required and needs to be catered to.
Gosling is the stoic driver and gives an introspective performance that is enigmatic and effective, and those sudden, violent explosions are brutally impactful. Great action, fantastic soundtrack, excellent supporting cast and glorious visuals. Drive remains one of the coolest films of the current decade.
Whilst on the subject of Refn and Gosling collaborations, I will briefly mention Only God Forgives. I briefly toyed with including it. It’s a film I don’t even particularly have great fondness for but it is essential viewing I think. There is something there. Something about the film. For better or worse, it sticks with you. It strips away everything inviting that Drive had. All those aspects that lure you into being engulfed in art-house, by weening you on genre fare too. Drive did that, where this does not.
Only God Forgives is balls out, unabashedly and in the best(worst) possible way, completely auteur. You may love it. You may find something in it that speaks volumes beneath the surface. You may hate it with a burning passion as something pretentious, sickening and hollow. There’s very little inbetween (although I feel like I’m a rare inbetweener on this one). It looks glorious and it sounds fantastic with a retro-modern score. I still can’t decide whether it’s art or trash. However, it is essential viewing. It’s films like this (see also Aronofsky’s recent film, Mother) which need to be seen and debated because they inherently spark that debate.
The Nice Guys
From writer/director Shane Black comes another neo-noir buddy film. It seems something of a speciality for Black. The zippy, zingy, one-liner infused pairing of two mismatched partners. In this case we have Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling.
Is it Black’s finest example in the genre? Not really. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang trod very familiar ground indeed, with a similarly macabre humour but no one saw it. It was virtually straight to video. A film quite disappointingly overlooked, before picking up a cult audience. However in recent years it’s fading out of memory. It’s a great shame because it’s a good film.
The Nice Guys in its own right is excellent. If it were anyone else other than Black it may go down better, but because it’s such a speciality of his it feels somehow easy. Perhaps a little lazy. Putting that aside though, it’s Crowe at his best in years. Gosling is also superb here. Seriously good. He shows off a wonderful comic talent that’s both verbal and physical whilst adding an introspective layer of depth that he’s become synonymous with.
It would be quite difficult not to enjoy a film like The Nice Guys.
La La Land
So joyous, well made, nostalgia dripping and acclaimed was La La Land, that of course it’s become a film that people love to claim they hate. It’s the same with every year when it comes to the film that everyone says you should see. Last year it was La La Land.
Whilst that nostalgic and heartfelt look back to the technicolor era of Hollywood musicals could have gone an entirely saccharine route, it’s fair to say that La La Land injects no small amount of pathos and complexity into the film. It doesn’t take things the obvious route and it certainly doesn’t adhere to Hollywood production code era happy endings.
Gosling and Emma Stone, two of the most “in” actors at the moment, make a wonderful pairing in a film that is both technically magnificent and emotionally engaging.
Try to hate it if you like but it’s a tough task, unless you have no soul and think dreams are psychotic episodes and a vastly overrated concept.
The Big Short
This film about the 2008 economic crash is a bittersweet, impacting and intelligent look at what lead to the financial disasters which affected the entire western world. What happened in America rings true of the UK too, if I’m looking at it through my British eyes. Greed, playing the system and business cultural recklessness. The film offers us a complex breakdown on the events, explained in almost Sesame Street-esque fourth wall breaking asides, which are never entirely clear, but this is part of the point.
What is left, aside from seeing a well written, superbly acted and brilliantly cast film, is an insightful and forever pertinent look at the greed culture and the needlessly complex nature of financial services, made thus to allow the manipulation of the public, without them being able to fully decode all the small prints and pitfalls.
Gosling shines as per normal but he’s well supported by the others.
Crazy Stupid Love
This forlornly comical tale of a middle-aged man on the cusp of divorce (Steve Carell) sees a perfect vehicle to balance the pre-established romantic comedy poster boy Gosling, to his new-found complexity.
Playing a Lothario on the cusp of that crossover between being a 20 something, to a 30 something when attitude must inherently change, he’s a flawed but engaging character. Objectionable but likeable. It’s something difficult to pull off, but someone with the easy charm and introspective abilities of Gosling can do this very effectively.
Gosling would of course go on to work again, to great effect with both Emma Stone and Carell. It’s a great cast, including Julianne Moore (always great) and the film does bittersweet and insightful observation very effectively.
Honourable mentions: Half Nelson, The Place Beyond The Pines, The Ides of March and Lars and the Real Girl.
SEE ALSO: The Essential Harrison Ford Films
Next time: The Essential Jared Leto Films.