Monday 28 November 2011

For the Love of Ryan Gosling - 'The Ides of March' (2011), 'Blue Valentine' (2010), 'Drive' (2011), 'Half Nelson' (2006)

For the Love of Ryan Gosling

There are very few moments that I gush about a mainstream actor or actress with a few movies under their belt. For the most part I think it is best to look to people like Judi Dench, Ed Harris, Sean Penn, Al Pacino and the other veterans for true talent. But there is a star emerging that I want to draw your attention to if you don’t know his name yet. I remember when I first saw Brad Pitt in ‘Thelma and Louise’. He was a pretty boy in a pair of jeans and a six pack. No one would have expected his role as psychopath in ‘Kalifornia’ or his future-seeing lunatic in ‘Twelve Monkeys’. We couldn’t expect his charismatic handling of ‘Fight Club’ as the anarchist Tyler Durden and we also wouldn’t have thought him capable of the understated cool we saw in the first ‘Oceans Eleven’. By the time I saw him ‘Babel’, it was obvious this actor had shades of Robert Redford and in my opinion even better breadth. The actor who has emerged, the next Brad Pitt, who I have all my chips on (more impressive if I was a gambler perhaps) is of course: Ryan Gosling.

Now I must admit that I think this man is certainly eye candy. I think he is stunningly good-looking on screen and able to captivate all audiences with his cool. But this is simply a veil of handsomeness on a core great actor. The first film I saw him in was ‘Half Nelson’ (2006) where Gosling plays a drug addict teacher who is falling out of control of his addiction. Gosling plays this challenging role with an ease that is extraordinary, nothing short of what Leonardo DiCaprio brought to his early drug addiction film ‘Basketball Diaries’. It is utterly believable and the on-screen chemistry he creates with his schoolkids (also good actors) is also so real that we can’t help but be drawn in. Most memorable is the bathroom scene when Gosling’s character feeds his crack habit and is rumbled by one of his students. The scene is so very moving, Gosling opening up the human predicament in a truly remarkable piece of acting. If you don’t mind seeing a clip, take a look for yourself ( ). It is easy to think it is the impressive camera work that delivers in this scene and that Gosling adds to it. I think I thought that too. But then I saw ‘Blue Valentine’ (2010)….

‘Blue Valentine’ ( is an impeccable piece of film-making if ever there was one. I saw it soon after my marriage finally broke down (not the best timing for the film) and this film really tore me apart with its heart-wrenching honesty and beautiful simplicity of design. The film tells in short the start and end of a relationship at the same time, the couple pictured happy and in love as they start to date and fall in love and, parallel with this shown, many years hateful of and pained by each other as they break apart. The film was astonishingly profound to watch, drawing comparisons one would rarely see made between the way we can openly and meaningfully love things about a person and then come to openly and meaningfully hate those same things. Ryan Gosling was matched like for like with another rising star, Michelle Williams, whom I also note highly due to her performance in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and the highly anticipated new film ‘My Week with Marilyn’. I have indeed been watching her for many years as an avid ‘Dawson’s Creek’ fan whilst at university… The two stars were weighted perfectly on screen and seemed for all sense and purposes a thoroughly believable couple. This perhaps has a lot to do with their living together in a small flat to get in to character for their role. You could feel their relationship in every corner of their performance and this was made clear by the fact we didn’t need the story between their meeting and their breaking to understand their life together. Gosling however stood out once again. If you were under the illusion it is the film that is making it work for him, you can see in ‘Blue Valentine’ that this is quintessentially not the case. I surely have never seen such a convincing depiction of a real, un-idealised man falling in love and then being ended with against his power and wants. He shows beautifully man’s inability to articulate feelings, to change, to understand, to admit inadequacies and insecurities. He also shows however how seductive a man can be by being himself. We believe Williams’ character falls for him because he is so genuine and most importantly a symbol of strength for her. I was blown away. I was a believer and couldn’t wait for another of his films to catch my eye.

It was the recent film ‘Drive’ (2011) that I went out of my way to watch ( I knew I was going to love it and sure as hell I did. An entirely different film to the others, this film highlighted further breadth for this wonderful young actor. With hardly any lines, and a splattering of disarmingly sudden ultra-violence, Gosling embodies a getaway driver who gets in over his head with a local crime boss. Gosling is the epitome of ‘cool’ in this film. Strong, controlled, silent, deadly. Think of the dark side of Steve McQueen and you have his character in a nutshell. Again Gosling has a superb director at the helm and an inspiring cast who do very well too, but nothing can take away from this star as he is truly magnetic on screen. Forget men wanting to be ‘Alfie’. They want to be Gosling’s anonymous ‘Driver’. I heard that the director came up with the idea for the film watching the actor as he drove him in his car. Yes, the director had had a lot of medication as he was ill but I can still entirely believe that this could occur. Gosling oozes charm. It comes out in his interviews and it comes out in his film choices.

George Clooney’s fourth and most accomplished directorial piece ‘The Ides of March’ (2011) is the very latest film to feature Gosling’s consummate talent ( Clooney has always had an eye for actorial skill. He launched Sam Rockwell for the most part who is another star worthy of mention. It is no wonder that he took on Gosling in the main role in his complex anti-political drama. Gosling plays a Stevie Meyers, right hand media PR man to Clooney’s Governor Morris as he moves forward toward presidential election. Clooney pulls back from the spotlight to let Gosling come forward and shine as a young man full of idealistic principles and true belief in the worthiness of Morris as the future president who then sees the errors of his idealism and belief in the political system. We follow, as in a Greek tagedy, the fall of his character from such clean, moral heights to someone who must utilise dirty politics in order not to be smeared and lose his career in the process. It is a masterful piece, another excellent anti-establishment choice by Nespresso-toting Clooney. I must give Clooney the credit he deserves. Clooney knows what films are going to rattle people with its questioning of power, its deconstruction of corporate or national politics. Just look at ‘Syriana’ (2005), ‘Michael Clayton’ (2007), ‘Three Kings’ (1999) and ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’ (2009). This is an actor who knows what he is doing. I really hope that he is going to take Gosling under his wing and encourage the young actor to keep going as he has done so far. With good film choices, good directors, good supporting casts etc. Less films like ‘The Notebook’ (2004), less sell-out romantic comedies, and more good solid dramas. Gosling is someone who needs to go the distance.

In short, if you have not seen these four films, please please go and see them and remark at the handsome genius of Ryan Gosling. He really is one to look out for. And yes, I am slightly in love with him.

Jana Manuelpillai

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