Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

20 September 2011

If I Had a Hammer...

Everyone, it seems, is talking about Drive, the film that was released this week from director Nicolas Winding Refn. People are loving it and hating it. I meant to see this movie on Friday, but then I went to a release party for a collection of poetry written by my friend Greg. This book, in fact. So I didn't get to the movie in time, but my roommate and our friend George both went to see Drive knowing nothing about it. They both loved it.

When I saw it on Sunday I was less enthusiastic, but I have been rather inarticulate about it so far. Anyway, I figured that I would post a conversation Greg and I had about Drive since it was his fault I missed the movie on Friday in the first place.

Me: Drive.
Greg: Did you love it?
Me: No. I liked it though.
Greg: Sad face.
Me: Hahaha. Oh. I didn't know I was supposed to love it. I loved all the violence, of course. And the scene with the hammer is amazing.
Greg: YES. I thought the elevator scene was the most beautiful moment I've seen in a theater in a while.
Me: Oh yeah. That was a great scene too. I am frustrated with slow-motion shots, though. They create a real pacing problem, I think.
Greg: Normally I would agree.
Me: I don't have a problem with the director showing his hand (slomo shots do that, I think), but I get frustrated with the importance slomo places on certain things. The kiss worked. But there is a lot of slomo in this movie.
Greg: I am in love with Ryan Gosling.
Me: Oh I am too. Why else did you like it?
Greg: The soundtrack, the slow pace, the opening sequence; it didn't give in. Albert Brooks. I believed that all of it happened. I wanna make someone swallow a bullet. Everyone was emotionally vulnerable.
Me: I liked all of these things as well. And I loved Bryan Cranston. And Oscar Isaac.
Greg: Yes.

Me: My objection is that the film wants two things at once. I think. It wants us to love Ryan Gosling. For us to think he's a hero. (The soundtrack spells it out: "...and a real hero...")
Greg: He is a hero. Every hero is flawed.
Me: Well, no, Greg. He's also deeply troubled. And frankly, a bit scary.
Greg: The world forces him to be scary.
Me: Does it really?
Greg: I think so.
Me: The shot in the elevator after the kiss is, I think, intended to make us think differently. He doesn't need to smash that guy's head in.
Greg: He would've killed both of them.
Me: Yes. I understand that. It is the excess of the violence that I think we are meant to read as troubling. I read it as troubling, at any rate.
Greg: Well yeah, but that wasn't long after he gets fucked over & those guys with the shotguns. Who wouldn't snap?
Me: I hear you. I do. But he does snap.

Greg: We create these action heroes who don't use guns because we don't want to see them kill anyone, so they have whips or tie people up or kung fu them, but the reality is they are hunting him down to kill him & the people he cares about. Part of me thinks it'd be less scary if he didn't snap & kick the guy's head in.
Me: I think you are completely correct. But I want to remain ambivalent about him.
Greg: Haha. That's fair.
Me: And the film wants me to think he is heroic. I think he does what is right. Definitely. But I don't think he is a hero per se.
Greg: By making him overly violent it's easier to dismiss his death at the end.
Me: I do not dismiss his death.
Greg: It's a way for the audience to get a pass out. You know what I mean.
Me: Yeah. Drive reminded me more than anything of Animal Kingdom from last year. The David Michôd movie. Did you see it?
Greg: I didn't catch it.
Me: Drive is slicker. And I liked Drive better. But it has this same obsession with slow-motion. And empty (if you ask me) silences.
Greg: I would've liked a little more dialogue. It seemed like a cheap screenplay, if that makes sense.
Me: It does.

Greg: I am bummed. it got great reviews but audience reviews have been bad. I don't think it'll have legs.
Me: Really?
Greg: Yeah. Cinemascore was like a C-. The trailers were very misleading.
Me: Oh! Wow! Everyone I've talked to has loved it.
Greg: Because you know educated people.
Me: I don't know any educated people.

You can read more from Gregory Sherl (about Drive and John Cusack and poetry and fucking) in a delightful interview with Roxane Gay over at HTMLgiant.