Drive - 17th September 2011

Ok so I haven't written the blog in ages because, well quite frankly I have been busy and obsessed with the new After Movie Diner podcast , also a lot of the films that I have seen recently haven't inspired me exactly to write anything about them. Don't worry, I will go back and cover them all eventually I am just not going to be a stickler on when, the date on the posts will still indicate when I saw the film, ok?

So for almost a year this blog has been updated in the order that I saw the films but from now on, it will be updated when I have something to say.

So this brings me to Drive, which I have just seen and has inspired me big time to put my thoughts down now. For those who either haven't seen it or haven't read up on it, Ryan Gosling plays a quiet, enigmatic stunt driver who works movies by day and by night, literally, moonlights as a getaway driver.
We never find out why, nor does the movie ever fully explain it because that would have forced the writer to actually pen some dialogue. When we do get even the remotest bit of back story about any of the characters it is presented by one character wandering up to another and in a neat, concise monologue telling the person and us, the audience, basically just enough so we get the picture. It's a slightly obvious, ham fisted way of doing things.
Gosling becomes enamoured with Carey Mulligan and her son who live next door by way of a montage and some electronika musak. When her husband is released from jail and some of his old cronies come calling, Gosling takes it upon himself to help, the plan fails, everything goes from bad to worse and it's up to him and only him to ensure Mulligan and the kid's safety.

Sounds exciting, right? well it is and it isn't. Here is what I wrote the moment I got home:

"While I certainly didn't hate the movie and would still recommend everyone to go and see it I am just not sure I wasn't having the wool pulled over my eyes.

It was either a phenomenal piece of stylistic and understated brilliance with subtlety taking the place of script while also featuring some extreme and intentionally over the top and almost manga/cartoonish ultra violence; sort of like David Lynch meets The Coen's (actually Barton Fink came to mind) via Scorsese (part of the plot and character was pure Taxi Driver without the voice over and Albert Brooks' presence sort of confirmed it for me).
It was the longest, most pretentious, stylistic mess (veering oddly from moments of quiet, oblique, impenetrable confusing silence to loud slow mo John Woo via Tarantino violence) that I have ever had the misfortune to sit through.
It certainly had me swinging from one opinion to the other all the way home and part of me was deeply angered by the film but then again it also left me feeling still, happy and weirdly relaxed.

Oscar contender by the new Lynch/Coen/Scorsese/Tarantino hybrid we've been waiting for in the sea of mundane and banal cinematic offerings of late or does the emperor have a new car?
YOU decide - go watch it, any film that makes me think this much and feel conflicted HAS to be worth the price of admission."

What I will say is this, the supporting cast are brilliant. Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston and Ron Perlman all play their parts with as much relish as the non-existent script will allow.
Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan, however, fall into the same category as the film, are their incredibly understated, blank, mumbly performances work of amazing, burgeoning young talents? or are they both expressionless, bland, doe eyed frauds?I honestly just don't know and couldn't tell you.

It might have all been a dream.

It was an utterly frustrating experience writing this review but I really had to put it down on paper (so to speak).

Either 2 out of 10 or 8 out of 10 - I can't decide.

UPDATE: Ok, so it's a few days later - Tues 20th Sept to be precise and the whole internet it seems is clamouring to, pardon my expression, suck this films dick. Everyone is going crazy over the praise they give it.
Well that's fine, it's great people saw something in the cinema that for them was exciting and engaging. I would never criticise them personally for thinking what they want but the more people go on about it the more I have thought back over the film to see if there was something I missed because a lot of these people are my friends and I trust and respect their opinion.
Well sadly no, in fact the more I think about it the worse the film gets.
I am just going to say it because before I sort of held back because I was trying to give the film its due but it needs to be said: The script was weak and lazy. The exposition was heavy handed and there wasn't enough of it and the long, drawn out and repetitive silences to replace character exposition got really annoying and had me shifting in my seat wanting to scream at the screen "for fucks sake say something you droopy faced bastard!"
The performances of Gosling and Mulligan don't convince me either, yes they did develop chemistry, of sorts, through their long protracted doe eyed silences but beyond that, it was unrealistic. Real relationships, the sort we are meant to believe they have because the whole film's plot basically hinges on it, require a conversation. Just one or two. A word here or there would surfice but no, nothing, just a whole lot of gazing and a nondescript child is enough to make any lone man risk his life and the life of his only friend, we are meant to believe and I think Mulligan and Gosling do just enough so that people can't accuse them of not acting and for some to think their performances are understated genius but, to be honest, anyone can mumble through a role and the few sparks of energy he did have were few and far between.

Ok, though, let's move away from those two points, let's accept all that as fine, let's say it was more like a grindhouse film, many people have used the word retro (why? I don't know but let's go with it), let's say that the flimsy obvious exposition was on purpose, it certainly fits with the excessive and cartoonishly rendered blood letting and underworld crime theme.
Great, as a grindhouse film it's too long, too slow and with overt artistic pretensions and you can't have a film called Drive, go on and on about what a great driver this guy is and then in the one scene where it really counts (the getaway) have another car there that is as good and almost gets the better of them when it's only meant to be driven by some generic hoods.
So is it an art film with grindhouse pretensions or a grindhouse film with artistic pretensions? I mean at least when Tarantino tried to do retro with Dogs and Pulp especially he put in enough interesting dialogue and jokes to cover up what were huge obvious homages to other things and in fact when he makes a purposeful grindhouse film years later and even Inglorious Basterds after that (which is based on a 70s grindhouse action flick) they are the worse two films of his career.

I still don't mean to be too down on the film, it really was ok but it's a reaction to people going on about how brilliant it was. I am sorry but it really wasn't brilliant. It was ok. Maybe it really just is that people either haven't watched a film like this in a while or that all the other films they have seen recently have been so bad that this one sticks out amongst the shit. I don't know but I also don't believe in falling for hype or praising things unduly. Praise where praise is due: Albert Brooks, Ron Perlman and Bryan Cranston.
The cinematography wasn't bad either but it was uneven in places and the editing, again, wasn't too shabby except where they disjointedly slipped in long shots of silent night driving over and over again to try and infuse Ryan's bland performance with some sort of tortured depth. I get it! the guy feels more comfortable behind the wheel of a car where he is in control than in his own skin where he is not! I get it! I got it an hour ago! stop dragging the film out!
Sorry I am ranting again but this film is forcing me to. I don't know why but when I don't understand why people think it's a masterpiece I have to offer my counter argument. Sorry

My Top 10 of the year so far - 26th October 2011

The Dilemma - 23rd June 2011