Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Double Shot Of Gosling

Ryan Gosling is one of the most exciting actors working in movies today. He always gives interesting performances, alternating work in independent films like Half Nelson (2006) and Lars & The Real Girl (2007) with more mainstream fare like The Notebook (2004) and The Ides of March (2011).  I recently got to view two of his more recent efforts, Blue Valentine (2010) & Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011). Gosling was nominated for back-to-back Golden Globes for his work in these films, and they are both worth watching.

In Crazy, Stupid, Love, Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is shocked when he is told by his wife Emily (well played by Julianne Moore) that she has cheated on him, and wants a divorce. He moves out, and starts frequenting a local bar, where he meets Jacob Palmer (Gosling), a womanizer who regularly picks up women for one-night stands, and forms no emotional attachments. Jacob becomes a mentor to Cal, teaching him how to dazzle & seduce women.  But Cal realizes he still loves his wife, and Jacob meets a woman named Hannah, who appears to be immune to his charm. Both men begin to question their dealings with women, and the impact of love in their lives.

We also watch Emily as she dates the guy she cheated with, and Cal & Emily’s young son Robbie, who has a crush of his own. Like most romantic comedies, the stories begin to intertwine as the film runs its course, with some predictable results. But this movie is sweet & funny, with characters you can relate to at its core. It has some bittersweet moments, and is a well-written reflection on love, longing & 1st crushes. The performances are all good, and Gosling is very effective as a ladies’ man who yearns for something more. Crazy, Stupid, Love is one of the better films of its genre in recent years.

Blue Valentine is an entirely different kind of movie. A searing, emotional drama about a troubled marriage, it was highly acclaimed upon its release in 2010, and Gosling’s co-star Michelle Williams was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actress. The story follows Dean (Gosling) and Cindy (Williams), a couple whose relationship is crumbling. The film moves back & forth in time between their courtship, marriage and the end of their time together. It's a sensitive, sometimes dark, but very honest portrait of the emotions these two people feel during the course of their lives together.

Director & co-writer Derek Cianfrance encouraged his leads to improvise the dialogue in some scenes, and it gives the film a very realistic feel. The film is shot in a gritty, low-key style and Cianfrance also makes excellent use of music (much of the score is by the indie band Grizzly Bear, but a key scene makes perfect use of an obscure 70s soul song by Penny & The Quarters) Both leads are amazing, and give outstanding performances. You really feel for (and with) these characters; Gosling & Williams truly embody these wounded souls yearning for love & a better life. This effective drama is a must see. Ryan Gosling really is an actor to watch; he just keeps getting better in each role. The 2011 crime thriller Drive received a lot of critical accolades last fall, and that film will be released on video January 30. I missed it in theaters, but look forward to checking it out at home.

Both Crazy, Stupid, Love & Blue Valentine are currently available on Blu-ray & DVD.

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