Keep in mind, when Mrs. Linklater starts making rash remarks about subjects outside her limited area of expertise, simply consider the source. So, if my assessment of Ryan Gosling seems unduly harsh at first, remember I thought Josh Hartnett was really good the first time I saw him.
Speaking of blank pages, er, Josh, the boy from Minnesota could use a Mike Nichols-directed movie to goose his lame-ass career. Ann Margret was twirling down the drain after a slew of bad movies until Carnal Knowledge. Nichols' skills revealed the latent acting talent that other, less competent directors flat-out missed when they were no doubt blinded by her augmented titolas. The Hartnett boy could use a jolt of Nichols' ability to elicit good performances. I think he's got one. Or there's always voiceover work.Where was I? My groundbreaking research into Ryan Gosling's grip on cinema began by watching Half Nelson, an overrated, self-indulgent indy film that asked the question, "What's going to become of a drug-fueled junior high history teacher who drives his latch key student home from school?" Not much, it turns out. But, he and co-star Shareeka Epps managed to overcome a very beige, rinse and repeat script with some prime time acting, worthy of several nominations/wins for both. Score one for Mr. Gosling.
Last night, after I refused to pay money to see The Notebook in theaters six or seven years ago, I finally watched it on my computer. After suffering through Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep stumbling through the Bridges of Madison County in 1995, I vowed not to get sucked into the maelstrom of mawk ever again. Just the thought of reading the books that spawned these movies gives me diabetes.
Shockingly, The Notebook didn't suck, even with a story that tiptoed on the edge of Karo syrup -- a chick flick for the ages. I kept waiting to hate the script and never did. Sam Shepherd is as real as it gets. James Garner never misses. Gena Rowlands is the mother of us all. And James Marsden is just four inches short of worldwide domination. They were the solid bricks and mortar supporting the movie. Interesting that The Notebook won a "best feature film casting award" from CSA.
Nicholas Sparks' wife's grandparents had actually lived this impossibly romantic fairy tale, it turns out. [You can learn things during the commentary.] Nothing like treacle that's true. But the story is only as good as the performances. As much as I hate to admit it, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams melted the celluloid together. There wasn't a scene between those two that wasn't lit from within. Both were present and accounted for every second.
The two of them practically swept the Teen Choice Awards in categories that guarantee immortality for boy gets girl movies: Choice male and female, Choice breakout male, Choice chemistry, Choice dance scene, Choice love scene, Choice liplock. And Best kiss and Best female performance from MTV.
Ryan Gosling wastes nothing on screen. His gestures and expressions are all in service of the moment. You can read a book by the light in his eyes. Even his stillness communicates as much or more as when he speaks. If young love is now a genre, he defines the category. Score another one for Mr. Gosling. The geek is all grown up.
Now I've got a bunch of his other flicks to watch. Let's see if his performances hold up to Mrs. Linklater's squinty-eyed scrutiny. Inquiring minds will want to know.
UPDATE: Not that she's hooked or anything, but so far Mrs. Linklater has added Blue Valentine, The Believer, Stay, Fracture, All Good Things, The Ides of March, and Crazy, Stupid, Love to her Ryan Gosling repertoire. She owns Lars and the Real Girl and Remember the Titans. Drive, Murder by Numbers and The Slaughter Rule are in her queue. He should win somebody's best actor for Blue Valentine. Stay is a film student's wet dream visually, a nightmare otherwise. His talent is wasted in Fracture and All Good Things, even Ides of March. But the boy is brilliant in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Dan Fogelman's dialog between Ryan and Emma Stone, the first time he tries to pick her up, is as fast and slick as anything Aaron Sorkin tossed out during Social Network. I'm waiting for "You look photoshopped!" to go viral. And Gosling fans around the world no doubt noticed that he gained some well placed L.B.s for the part. BTW, are Gosling fans Goslings? I got bitchslapped by The Believer. If they gave a retroactive Oscar/Golden Globe for best actor, that performance would definitely be on my list. Meanwhile, I have been trying to see Drive in a theater, but it's on its way to DVD land and the closest theater was sixty miles away, so I *sigh* have to wait.
UPDATE PART DEUX: I had to buy Drive to see it. And it was worth every extra penny I scraped together to afford Best Buy's ridiculous retail prices. I also got out my copies of Lars and the Real Girl plus Remember the Titans and spent the evening in a threesome with Mr. Gosling. Ha. I crack myself up.