Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Ryan Gosling

QuickView: First Man (2018)

“When you get a different vantage point, it changes your perspective.”

Neil Armstrong

First Man should not be mistaken for a film about the Apollo programme; as its name suggests the biopic is focused solely on the contribution of Neil Armstrong, sidelining everyone else. The claustrophobic nature of spaceflight is realistically presented through tight shots that leave us gazing into Ryan Gosling’s eyes with a regularity that eventually becomes tedious (although some viewers may disagree with this assessment). This is combined with an interesting decision to shoot the moon landing with IMAX cameras. If seen in that format the larger screen is entirely unused outside of that 15 minute sequence. Although impressive, IMAX viewing for this alone is far from essential. Gosling’s portrayal is deliberately understated whilst Claire Foy delivers the film’s strongest emotional performance as Armstrong’s wife. The most surprising aspect is an effective exploration of traditional masculinity and the burden placed on men who are left unable to share their emotional pain, with resulting impact on their families. Ultimately First Man is overlong but satisfying.

7/10

QuickView: Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011)

“I don’t know whether to help you or euthanize you.”

Jacob

Infuriating punctuation aside, this romantic comedy strives for greater quality and depth than its peers, even as it relies on familiar tropes. It is largely successful through acting talent and valuing thoughtful drama over laughs. Steve Carrell is allowed to make the newly single Cal sympathetic rather than a sad sack caricature. Where the comedy surfaces, it is typically wry rather than laugh-out-loud, with the best lines tending to have darker overtones. It is noteworthy that the central couple are a middle aged husband and wife who share remarkably little screen time. As is often the case with even the smarter rom coms, the movie struggles to find a conclusion and falls back on awkwardly saccharine displays, despite undermining the “grand gesture”.

7/10

The Ides of March (2011)

director: George Clooney
writer: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
starring: Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood
running time: 101 mins
rating: 15

I’ll do or say anything if I believe in it,
but I have to believe in the cause.

The portrayal of politics in The Ides of March (its title an overt reference to the betrayal and assassination of Caesar) is unrelentingly cynical, but it has little need to convince its audience: while the twists and turns of the plot are compelling, there is no shock or disbelief because this world is so instantly recognisable in its realism.

Stephen Myers [Ryan Gosling] is an idealistic staffer on the Presidential campaign for Governor Mike Morris [George Clooney] in the Democratic primaries. With only two candidates still in the running, Ohio is the crucial state that will decide the race, but Morris refuses to compromise on his principles by making deals to win. Myers finds his own integrity tested as the campaign continues.

Many will mistake this for a political film when really its focus is on single character’s struggle with integrity set against a political backdrop, perhaps highlighted best by a shot of Myers’ small silhouette against the backdrop of a gigantic US flag. There is no strong political message here — the campaign is between two Democrat senators; comments on the Republicans are merely asides. Images such as a Shepard Fairey inspired campaign poster for Morris are more to ground the proceedings in the present day political atmosphere than to designate targets. Notably the source material, Willimon’s play Farragut North, was based on the 2004 primaries and not the Obama campaign.

Instead this is a powerful thriller with not a single bullet fired, yet many scenes have a heightened intensity as a result. One lingering exterior shot of a van — we know the conversation ongoing inside though we are not privy to the dialogue — is as taut as any execution scene and in its precise construction we half expect to hear a muted gunshot accompanied by a cloud of red mist. To cultivate this atmosphere without need for violence or exploitative tricks is a testament to Clooney’s assured, yet understated, direction.

The central cast is incredibly strong and all turn in excellent performances. Gosling has the most nuanced role even if his character’s shift is ultimately in a single direction. Meanwhile the rest of the cast tend to be reacting more to the machinations of others. Clooney oozes crowd-pleasing charm, while Hoffman and Giamatti make great rival veteran campaign managers with differing styles, one prizing loyalty while the other is more jaded. Wood may be the least prestigious name amongst the leads but her ability to switch between seductive confidence and vulnerable naïveté sells her character.

Ultimately, while non-partisan, The Ides of March is still a scathing condemnation of the political process, moreso because we are treated to the damage caused on a personal level as well as the overarching hypocrisy. The latter will not surprise the audience, but the former still brings home the message in a powerful fashion.

rating: 3.5/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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