Directorial debut of Ryan Gosling was almost flushed down the toilet during its premiere at Cannes festival. Despite being abandoned by Warner Bros Studio and vastly criticized in a crushing number of reviews, Gosling remained robust and managed to promote the movie on a smaller-than-he-expected scale. I do believe, that Gosling is not a talentless and too self-centered celebrity, and thus I had high hopes for ‘Lost River” despite this rather humiliating reception. The bad reviews I’ve read from Cannes only fostered my curiosity – is this movie really THAT bad?
World is falling apart – progressive bestiality is ubiquitous, people in the local community are being terrorized by a mad man named Bully (Matt Smith), who knows no boundaries nor feelings. In this terrifying world, Billy (Christina Hendricks) struggles to pay off her house payments, which eventually leads her to a dark, grotesque underworld of bigotry in a club owned by Dave (Ben Mendelsohn). Her son, Bones, who tries to support his mother, spends his day looking for copper, which then he can sell. When Bully takes over complete control over this “business”, Bones finds a secret road leading to an underwater world. His companion in those secret journeys is Rat (Saoirse Ronan), who tells him a story regarding this forgotten town.
Gosling’s main malady in ‘Lost River” is an ubiquitous hotch-potch, present mainly in the plotline, which doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. Billy, whose main focus is to keep her house safe for children, dwells into a visionary “gore” club, where clients can let their emotions go in many different ways (the concept of shells was quite…unusual?), but there is hardly any connection with the other subplots. We are not given much of the background story – what exactly happened in the town, what drives characters like Bully or Dave. “Lost River” is just too mysterious, opaque and hazy in its plot. The characters seem to be mawkins, one-dimensional, very transparent and this is also due to Gosling’s lack of directorial skills. Mendelsohn, Smith, Hendricks – they do their best and if only they were given a more consistent screenplay and knew, what is the ultimate purpose of this movie- “Lost River” would be a prestigious debut.
Nevertheless, one needs to be stated in a clear manner – “Lost River” is astonishingly grotesque, filmed with artistry. Gosling learned a lot from his cooperation with Nicolas Winding Refn during “Drive” and “Only God Forgives”, but adds up a lot of his own esthetics and soul, which proves him to be a director with a lot of potential. ‘Lost River” is mezmerizing in terms of colors, bright and alive, its dark atmosphere, but fails to fully take advantage of them. The director had some brilliant ideas, which unfortunately do not suit each other, causing an immense mayhem pumping out of the screen.
Undoubtedly, he did not deserve so much hatred and bone-crunching criticism. There were numerous films, which should be noted as tragic debutes, but not this one. The problem was the sole fact, that it’s Ryan Gosling. High hopes killed “Lost River” even before the movie was released. He got great cast, got experience from working on the set many years as an actor, but definitely needs to learn a lot before taking camera gain into his hands.
Summing up, neither do I recommend “Lost River”, nor completely discourage my viewers. I admit I expected something a bit different, but one is certain – it is not a movie you can easily forget. Eye-catching, very artistic, but well…quite pointless. If you remain undecisive, I have a hint for you – watch Gosling’s “Lost River” just to see Ben Mendelsohn dancing – that’s the one thing you won’t regret.
UMP Grade: 29/50
(Cinematography: 8, Plot: 4, Acting: 7, Soundtrack: 5, Quaintness: 5)
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