Tag Archives: Ryan Gosling

Only God Forgives (2013)

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There are a lot of compelling ideas in Only God Forgivesnot enough to make it a good film, but certainly enough to make it interesting. When you put it next to Drive, Only God Forgives becomes an opiated chapter in Director Nicolas Winding Refn’s Machismo Fables, with Ryan Gosling’s maddeningly stoic anti-hero (known here as Julian; in Drive as simply Driver) at the center. As with his other films, Refn considers the power of violence, and like Drive he explores the lengths to which a man will go for a woman — even a hellish virago of a mother, played by Kristin Scott Thomas. In general, these subtexts seem relevant more for their cultural antiquity than their place in modern culture, and I suppose there’s something to be said for the tenacity of Refn’s thematic exploration, but the utter torpor found in so much of Only God Forgives makes its 89 minutes feel interminable. There’s a viciously sharp performance by Vithaya Pansringarm as the film’s chilling Chang, and certainly Refn’s films always deliver stylistically — this is the most beautifully shot film I’ve watched in months — but his lack of balance is quickly relegating him to a style-over-substance storyteller.

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The Ides of March (2011)

Maybe cynicism comes with age. As the world reveals its endless potential for deception and betrayal, it becomes harder and harder to maintain idealism. This must be true with regard to political cynicism or apathy, as the perpetual cycle of that world is masterful deceit and earth-shattering revelation, and anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention seems to understand that politicians simply cannot be trusted. Running for political office means maintaining a pretense of white teeth and talking points; ostensibly being whatever voters want you to be. Unfortunately, this facade is easily shattered and nearly impossible to regain, an idea taken to its deepest depths in George Clooney’s latest direction, The Ides of March.

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Drive (2011)

There’s nothing subtle about Drive, though for followers of Director Nicolas Winding Refn‘s career to this point, subtlety is about the last thing you’d expect to find. Refn is a filmmaker fascinated by intensity, eager to push the limits of graphic violence. Drive is no exception, though in the end it is not the film’s brutality that defines it. Refn’s latest is dripping with style, from the slick opening credits to the closing synthed-out track. It is a film for a generation that often judges a product’s success as much on aesthetics as content, and though this may be one of the sexiest films released in the last decade, it can also be prohibitively aloof.

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Blue Valentine (2010)

As someone who is lucky enough to have found love and held on to it, I find myself particularly struck by Blue Valentine. It’s not that a solitary individual will take nothing from the film, but it helps vastly to have some evocative experience with the love and salience of a relationship. At the core of the film is love, but in larger doses reside the blights of distrust and doubt, the arsenic of fear. So much of this experience is visceral that it’s no wonder the film has garnered a reputation as an emotional wrecking ball. While it certainly has its agonies, Blue Valentine is far from a one-note melancholic. There’s a lot of beauty in this film, and it’s delivered with equal sincerity.

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