Sunday, 25 September 2011

Drive!: Better than snail porridge? Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan star

Gosling: expressive nostrils
If Drive were a nest and critical praise was a bower bird, it would be the sort of nest that any self-respecting bower bird lady would love to hang out in, so becrusted with baubles would it be. Ryan Gosling, they say, is a knightly, existential warrior whose feline beauty is belied by his ability to kick people's heads in. Carey Mulligan, they say, can make eloquent gestures like Heston Blumenthal can make snail porridge. And it has cars in it!

So being the sort of person that I am (somewhere in the Womack vaults there lies a videotape of my, I think, fifth birthday, shouting ecstatically: "Cars! Just what I wanted! Cars!", although of course they were not real cars, only models, but still), I thought I'd go and see it for myself.

Gosling (I just can't help thinking about little baby geese) plays a man with no name and a really snazzy jacket with a golden scorpion on the back [warning: this scorpion is symbolic]  that he never cleans, even when he's eventually covered in blood and oil and presumably lots of other fluids I have no wish to know about. At the beginning we see him in his moonlighting role as a getaway driver. The scenes are enjoyably tense, with Gosling remaining as serene as a Greek statue as he evades police - not by zipping really fast around Los Angeles, but by cleverly anticipating their moves and sliding into hiding places just when he has to. His final move - he has rules, and he sticks very close to them - in the getaway is breathtaking in its simplicity and audacity. There's a nice, bassy soundtrack too.

He has two day jobs ("You look tired," says his boss at one point), one as a stuntman and one as a mechanic, and lives in a flat where he likes to tinker (no, that's not a euphemism), and has quite large, expressive nostrils.  He's doing all right, as far as nameless beautiful stuntmen go, he's pretty much got the nameless beautiful stuntman biscuit. If only he didn't find a love interest in the comely shape of Carey Mulligan, his neighbour, who he helps out with a car problem and carries home her shopping, which is how we know he is a good person; we also know that he is tender and sweet because he carries her son to bed TWICE. Wow! That's sensitivity for you. Their relationship is almost wordless - in fact I'd be interested to know how many words Gosling speaks in the film – and whilst it was all very suavely shot, I did feel that the character setups were overlong, as there are only so many shots of people looking longingly at each other whilst the sun comes through a window and a child looks adorable that one can take, otherwise you think you're in a Boden catalogue, which will not do.

Trouble comes - of course - when Mulligan's imprisoned husband comes home; he owes money to some rather nasty chaps, so Gosling the crusader offers to help him out. And it goes wrong - horribly wrong. (So the moral of the story, kids, is don't help anyone, ever, or you'll end up in very big trouble.) There is finely-wrought tension through the entire film, contrasted with the few moments of light, which reminded me of the adage in Homer - that the gods have two jars, one full of good things and one of bad; to some they dole out only bad, but to others a mixture. Not just good things, you see. There are some great, A History of Violence style scenes of inventive killings, too.

The film is slick, sleek, like a dolphin's wet back in the sea. Gosling is indeed preternaturally good, seeming almost divine, a sort of compromised Galahad. His closest living relative might be Philip Marlowe. Mulligan is lovely too, all achey and trembly and yearningy. The ending, with its lack of respect for teleology, may annoy some and please others: for me it was rather good, since it expressed the rough edges of life. So all in all, whilst I can't quite bring myself to rave about it in the vein of most critics, I would say that this is certainly more fun than eating snail porridge, even when cooked by Heston Blumenthal.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps not the sum of its parts, review and film too, but good still. And Homer with his jars (rather than Aesop with his trusting frog) seems right. I had not thought to see this, but I shall. Be well. MC