May 21, 2013
Written by Jonathan Schumann, a Reel Son
Wednesday, 28 September 2011 11:22
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help parents choose what to watch. This week, his son Jonathan — who shared his movie views in this column for several years — returns with a look at the new film, Drive.I caught Drive, Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn’s hollow confection of a caper film, at Nitehawk, a new movie theater in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s a hipster’s concept of movie-going, with high-end bar food and cocktails available to nibble and sip during the feature.
There was something so fitting about ironically chomping down on nachos while trying to enjoy Drive, which, regardless of quality, stands to emerge as an instant hipster classic. With it’s neon-soaked industrial landscape and seductive, 80s-inspired soundtrack, it embodies a style and attitude that’s captivated the too-cool-for-school, post-MTV generation. Despite its visual flourishes and occasional breathtaking sequences, Drive amounts to nothing more than a whole lot of posing. It’s the Marie Antoinette of chase movies — all style, no substance.
It-boy Ryan Gosling stars as a nameless stunt driver who moonlights as a wheel man for heists and robberies. It’s unclear whether thrill-seeking or economics motivate his felonious night job, but then we don’t ever find out why any of these characters are doing anything. He inexplicably falls for his downtrodden neighbor (Carey Mulligan) who comes with her own baggage — a husband in prison, a young son she takes care of, and a really tacky pair of hoop earrings. When her husband is released and needs cash quick, Gosling helps him with a robbery that predictably goes awry. In its aftermath, Gosling is forced to go head-to-head with a brilliantly cast-against-type Albert Brooks, a kingpin in LA’s seedy underbelly. It’s a great set-up for a trashy B-movie tribute, but Refn’s approach is so cold and detached that it’s impossible to become emotionally invested in the proceedings.
The actors can’t be faulted; they’ve been given cardboard cutouts to work with. The direction for Gosling was clearly to channel Steve McQueen, which he does with aplomb, though his cheekbones are doing most of the heavy lifting. It’s tough to buy Mulligan as a down-on-her-luck waitress — she has an inherent confidence and sophistication that’s at odds with the character. The supporting cast is a lot more fun, dialing up to archetypal B-movie figures. It’s a delight to see Brooks playing the heavy, while Bryan Cranston and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks bring an otherwise absent authenticity to their small but pivotal roles.
Ultimately, the whole thing plays like a music video for French electronic band M83 that runs two hours too long. It might now be a bad strategy, however, as I couldn’t wait to download the soundtrack the minute I left the theater.
2 Popcorn Buckets
Inspired by Drive to rent a movie? Here’s a suggestion from The Reel Son: Death Proof.
Quentin Tarantino has made a career pumping out elevated B-movies, and this one’s a doozey. Kurt Russell relishes the role of a sadistic killer who hunts down victims on the road. The climactic car chase that pits Russell against former stunt woman Zoe Bell is show-stopping, and Tarantino’s use of popular Austin, Texas locales is inspired.
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