Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Carey Mulligan: Irene
Bryan Cranston: Shannon
Albert Brooks: Bernie
Oscar Isaac: Standard
Ron Perlman: Nino
There were at least 15 people in the theater. And half-way through the movie we were all laughing aloud every time Gosling had a reaction shot.
Okay. Drive is good. The shot selection is good. The acting is good. The music is sick. Mulligan is wonderful. Cranston is great. BUT THE MOVIE IS RIDICULOUS.
Over and over and over and over and over and over and over again people ask Gosling questions, direct remarks at him, and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again the camera holds on Gosling NOT responding, on him STARING. Nearly every shot is drawn out to what some might consider an uncomfortable degree. To us in the theater, it begot hilarity. I sat there thinking, "is Gosling not going to respond again?" And then 10 seconds would go by and finally he'd smile a small smile. Then we'd all laugh.
Basically, he is AWKWARD. And the movie is awkward because it focuses on Gosling's awkwardness. For example...
There's an elevator scene where Gosling goes Mortal Kombat on this bad guy. Note: he doesn't go ninja. He doesn't go gladiator. He doesn't go action hero. He doesn't go superhero. He doesn't go super soldier. He doesn't go Jean Claude. He doesn't go Segal. He goes Johnny Cage. You just beat the crap out of this dude, Gosling. Finish him? And Gosling is like, yeah, I think I will. And it's cool, don't get me wrong. But as with the rest of the movie, it's EXCESSIVE. And what was dramatic quickly turns comical. And I will defend that statement by saying the people in the theater collectively GASPED then we all started laughing. All of us.
There's another scene where Gosling fights some people in a hotel room. He wins. And what's cool is this is the first real burst of violence in this film that's been brooding a sense of violence from the get go. But what's odd is how the scene ends. The last bad guy's death isn't followed by a cut to later. The guy dies. Then we cut to Gosling. Gosling is standing in the bathroom doorway. He's covered in blood. His face is totally red. The camera waits on him. Shadows play over his face. The camera still waits on him. Gosling isn't breathing heavily. He isn't talking to himself. He's staring. And the camera continues to linger on him. And finally he begins to creep behind the doorframe. We don't know why. It's not like he turns to the sink. It's not like he's going to the toilet. He is simply drifting behind the doorframe. And the camera holds on him as the back of his head disappears behind the doorframe. His shoulder. His ear. His temple. His eyebrow is vanishing. Finally his eye is gone. We still see his nose and lips. Then his lips are gone. And finally his nose, and all of Gosling is gone, the doorframe is empty. And NOW we cut.
I will allow that Gosling's staring at the doorway, in case someone else is coming through. Then he's looking at the window, in case someone else is coming through. But he's also replaying what happened. I'm writing this paragraph months after my first viewing of Drive. Which means I'm at a distance from the mirth I was feeling when I wrote this analysis. But. Even understanding that the moment has some sort of point (Gosling's shock), the shot is still really lame to me. I knew the first time I watched it that Refn would wait to cut until Gosling drifted behind the door frame. And it felt, and still feels, like someone (Refn) thinking they're being creative. When, okay, it's creative, but obvious. Like a not awesome pun. "I was going to look for my missing watch, but I could never find the time." Meh.
The same thing happens with the slow motion. The first instance of slow motion is when Gosling is carrying Mulligan's child into an apartment. Nothing has happened. The kid fell asleep after a play date to a river. Why is this in slow motion? Maybe to highlight the relationship of Gosling and this little boy? To show the solidification of this triangle that is the emotional core of the movie? Because after showing Gosling slowmo carrying this child, we get a slowmo shot of Mulligan following. Slow motion is used several more times and every time it's for a duration (and the longer the use of slowmo, the funnier it becomes (to me, and to the other people that were in my theater), because it becomes more and more a betrayal of realism. Drive is MOSTLY realism, except with the use of slowmo and when violence occurs--the violence is stylized and almost Kill Bill-esque. A defining feature of this movie is how it elooooooooooooooongates scenes, how it lingers on Gosling. It's like exhaling and waiting three to ten seconds to take your next breath. So when you have moments that are already drawn out slooooooooooooooooowed down, they can turn comedic.
And then you have inexplicable decisions. When Gosling goes to kill Nino, he wears a mask that he had worn during a stunt (Driver being a Hollywood stunt driver). Why? We don't know. Did he not want the guy to see his face? Maybe? But he's going to kill the guy, so what's it matter? At first you think it's because he's going to kill an entire roomful of people. Gosling pulls up to Nino's restaurant and walks to the door. He stands at the door and watches all the people inside. Bad guys and girls. And you think Gosling is going to kick down the door and kill Nino and whomever else. But Gosling stands there. And stands there. And stands there. And I couldn't help but think how much he looked like The King from the Burger King commercials. All the sudden there's a cut to Nino leaving the restaurant and Gosling is in his car again. Why did Gosling leave his car if he was only going to get back in and follow Nino when Nino left? Why is Gosling still wearing the mask? When Gosling finally knocks Nino's car off the road, he's still wearing the mask. He kills Nino. And Gosling never wears the mask again. We don't know why he did it. We don't know why he needed it. It doesn't seem like he needed it. "He obviously didn't want anybody to know it was him? DUH." I thought about that. But why, if Gosling wanted to protect his identity, did he continue to wear the BLOOD STAINED coat EVERYWHERE. Why attempt anonymity if you're wearing clothes people know you wear? And why continue to wear the clothes? There's something to be said about "maybe he wore the mask for symbolic purposes." Okay, fine. We can argue a reason for it. But, in context, the reason isn't clear, which makes the mask yet another ridiculous decision Gosling's character makes, and everyone in my theater found it hilarious.
The film's last 45 minutes were met with non-stop giggling and outright guffaws. People started talking and making jokes about what was going on on-screen. This is not a failure by the viewers. We didn't not "get it". It's not that the film was too "high-brow" for our lot. The film is just THAT----OH!
I almost forgot.
No less than 6 times does Gosling see something that upsets him or hears news that makes him angry and reacts by SLOWLY MAKING A FIST. While wearing his leather driving gloves. So that as he's making the fist we hear the leather cracking. The first time, it's like, "Yeah, he's angry!" The second time, "He's angry." The third time, "Yeah, he's angry..." The fourth time, "....." The fifth time: :D. And each time there after:
(added 12-28-2011. I won't change what I said below. But, re-reading what I said below, I jumped the gun. Or missed a gear, you could say. This movie is not one of the biggest failures of all-time. Nor did it fail to execute. The second half does become a caricature of the first, but, in retrospect, I think that was intended. Refn knew what he was doing. I still think the movie is hilarious. That hasn't changed. But I failed to fully appreciate what it was attempting (to demonstrate someone that is lost in all the cliches of a Hollywood action movie). So. I'll leave my initial, uneducated assessment. But know that I don't feel so unappreciative of what Refn and Gosling were going for (even though the repetitive aspects of the film continue to, I repeat, amuse me).
Yes. But I went in thinking "this will probably be an Oscar contender." I left thinking it's one of the biggest failures of all-time. I loved what it attempted. But I think it failed to execute. So many idiosyncrasies are repeated that the second half becomes a caricature of the first.
There are cool shots. Cool moments. Like, it's a movie to see. I think it's good. It's just... I can't take it seriously. I will laugh at it forever and always.
It's amazing to me that reviewers are praising the shit out of it. The style is fresh. The techniques are interesting. I would like to see more movies influenced by this one. But I don't think a filmmaker should hold Drive up as an ideal. It's like someone that built a sweet building and the building fell down. You don't want to use the same blueprint, because the building will fall. But you try to take all the cool features and attach them to a building that won't collapse.
What It's Good For:
-movie to talk about
-unique and probably unlike any movie you've seen before
-you could laugh at the entire thing
-it can confuse
-it gets violently violent (which is fine by me, but can bother some)
% Character / % Actor's personality
Gosling: it's either 50/50 or 90/10 or 10/90. Gosling's almost like other character's he's been, but not quite.
Mulligan: 80/20 or 50/50.
-Gosling: Crazy, Stupid, Love; The Notebook; Blue Valentine
-Refn movies: Valhalla Rising; Bronson
-Stylized violence: Kill Bill (1&2); 300; Blade II; Sin City; Ultraviolet
-Movies involvuing way more driving: Fast & Furious (series); Gone in Sixty Seconds (original); Bullit; American Graffiti