Friday, September 23, 2011


When I recently posted about Vera Farmiga's HIGHER GROUND, and in earlier posts about her, that I don't get why critics seem to fall all over themselves in adulation, comparing her favorably to Katherine Hepburn and Meryl Streep and raving about her glowing Hollywood-golden-age screen presence, I got a fair amount of flack from friends and acquaintances who thing [of course I mean "think" but still making and usually correcting those weird post-brain-op typos that aren't just missing keys but my fingers making a different choice than my brain] she's one of the great screen actresses and/or beauties.

I can see she can be seen as attractive, but I find her often kind of unattractive, and as for her acting I thought she sucked in THE DEPARTED, was good in UP IN THE AIR, and is okay in HIGHER GROUND.

Well, I just recently caught another independent movie that's been getting raves and winning awards and I'm baffled again. The movie's DRIVE, and though I have no reservations about Ryan Gossling's acting chops—he does what's called for in DRIVE in his amazingly understated way and deserves the accolades he gets (though his co-star Carey Mulligan almost steals the movie and for my taste deserves all the acting and screen-presence accolades Farmiga gets—but maybe she doesn't because Mulligan allows herself to look like someone who isn't glamorous, which Farmiga never seems to do in the roles I've seen her in)—at any rate... isn't Gossling's acting I think is overrated at all, it's this whole idea of him being some reincarnation of the handsome Hollywood leading man. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, yes, but Gossling to me seems more in the lineage of a star like Dustin Hoffman than Cary Grant.

It's true that in DRIVE he plays a kind of action anti-hero, and lately has been getting publicity for his body, a "hunk" and all that. But he's an odd looking guy to me, which is part of the appeal. His not being the standard Hollywood leading man gives a kind of power to his usually quiet presence in flicks like LARS AND THE REAL GIRL that makes his screen presence so memorable.

But though he and Mulligan are terrific in DRIVE, as is Bryan Cranston as Gossling's character's gimpy smalltime hustler boss, and Albert Brook's counter-intuitive casting as a mob boss is interesting up to a point, and Oscar Isaac is a discovery for me as the ex-con husband of Mulligan's character (Christina Hendricks of MAD MEN fame is wasted though in her literally disposable role of a mobster's moll), despite all that and the promise of the almost silent film intensity of the first half of the flick...

...making me and the friend I saw it with excited because it is obviously a well made film (directed by Nicolos Winding Refn and adapted from a James Sallis book by Hossein Amini), it ends up turning into what I can see in retrospect it was all along, a violent video game.

The inexplicable and/or arbitrary plot twists that seem to serve no purpose except to display graphic violence, the absence of any character development, or any that makes sense beyond the desire to wallow in some more let's-top-Tarantino-and-video-game gore, all adds up in the end, unfortunately, at least for me, to a giant missed opportunity to leave an audience with some satisfaction or feeling of enlightenment or at least entertainment, but instead me and my friend just looked at each other like: Huh?? with no clue as to what the point was beyond, as I said, graphic violence beyond the norm in even a contemporary film noir caper flick.

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