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

06 October 2015

Lost River

I got the DVD of Ryan Gosling's debut feature Lost River in June. (I still get the DVDs because I am old and they have a better selection). I was excited about Lost River. I like Ryan Gosling: I think he makes good choices, and although I haven't always enjoyed the movies that the directors whose muse he is (Derek Cianfrance and Nicolas Winding Refn) have made with him, I always think Gosling is interesting to watch in these films, even when the films don't work for me.

In any case, I was predisposed to like Lost River. And so I started watching it in early June.

I got about ten minutes in – a ten minutes that played like a riff on a David Gordon Green movie – and then the movie changed tone starkly. The film's star Christina Hendricks was now in a bank office populated by absolutely no one until Ben Mendelsohn enters doing a kind of bizarrely menacing David Lynch kind of thing. This section of the movie is a kind of absurd exposition sequence, in which the main character is introduced to us as in a complete financial bind because of her own ignorance, and (it is immediately obvious) will now be forced to do a series of things that she doesn't want to do but that the film will enjoy watching her do.

I took the DVD out and went to sleep instead. This was already too contrived for my taste.

And then I didn't put the DVD back into my player until last night, when I convinced myself – finally – simply to finish this movie so that I could move on with my movie-watching existence.

Well, I was right when I took it out the first time in June. Lost River is derivative of lots of other filmmakers, which is, I suppose, fine as far as it goes, but Lost River also can't decide which of these guys it likes best. David Lynch is an obvious influence, with his grotesquely vicious worlds and characters who behave without motivation of any kind, but the movie also insists on numerous shots lit by a single source of brightly saturated neon light (pink, red, sometimes green) just like Refn's (awful) Ryan Gosling movie Only God Forgives.

Let me just stop right here: Avoid this thing at all costs. It is slow and ponderous and absurdly self important. And it is insanely, almost sadistically boring. Eva Mendes is a charming bright spot in this dour universe, but there isn't much else of interest and there's no one to root for in Lost River. Stay away.