Ryan Gosling Rant

***Spoiler Alert***

I just visited Portland this past weekend, and saw the movie Drive with Ryan Gosling. The movie theatre we went to was incredible. It was in an old refurbished building that potentially used to be a brothel according to a friend. There were local brews, yummy nosh foods like cheese plates and Thai roasted nuts, and very cozy chairs. I was pretty excited to see a movie in such an awesome location. I would love to go back and see another movie there.

However, Drive was a major disappointment (and that is putting it nicely).

The throwback to the 80’s could have been fun with the synthesized music and hot pink lettering in the credits, but after a short while I had lost patience with the theme of the film, the treatment of women and ethnic minorities, and the lack of actual driving and plot points surrounding the title of the film.

Ryan Gosling with his 80's Jacket in Drive

My biggest problem with Drive was the underlying “White America” message which (perhaps accidentally, perhaps intentionally), permeated the entire film. In addition, not only was it also anti-Semitic at times, but the female characters were shown to be kind of flat and/or weak. The male and female protagonists are both blond Americans of European descent. Many of the most unsavory characters, on the other hand, are ethnic minorities. Hmmmmm….

For example, Ryan Gosling’s character (by the way he is never named, just called “Kid” or “Driver”) is falling in love with Irene (Carey Mulligan), a who is married to a Latino-American man named Standard, who is also in prison during the opening of the film and the subject of violence throughout the film.

Her husband is shown to not only be incapable of performing his “duties” as husband and father, but is also shown to be weak and cowardly in more than one scene. He eventually needs to ask Ryan Gosling for help. He, not surprisingly, also gets shot in the head during the movie.

I will not go into any symbolism here, but I felt that this whole patriarchal battle for Irene and her son Benicio between the White and Mexican man, even thought supposedly a subplot, was pretty obscene. Gosling also didn’t have to even try to “win” Irene in any way. He is shown by the filmmaker as the  more stable option, who Irene also seems to prefer (or at least the option last standing).

He is usually the one controlling violence, not the subject of that violence, for example. He’s somehow shown to be “better than” or exempt from the violence until it finally catches up with him. And even then, he gets a long, drawn out death, and he gets agency in his death.

I didn’t understand why Ryan Gosling’s White male character was glorified and masculinized. Isn’t that formula kind of tired by now?

He’s a good driver- OK, so what?

Hey look- Ryan Gosling in a car. That doesn't happen much in this movie, considering the title.

He is also shown to be emotionally and socially off, violent towards women at times, potentially racist, and doesn’t seem to know how to shop for clothes. Ok, so we’re supporting That White guy again? Yet another example of White Male Exceptionalism.

I was pretty “on guard” after the comment in the movie made by Gosling’s character about a picture of her husband Standard. He asks, “What is he?” and she responds, “In prison.” At that point I was thinking, Ok, that was a gutsy script choice. I wonder what they will do with that moment.

However, instead of delving into any of the background, racial tension, ignorance, or potential racism on the part of Gosling’s character that elicited the comment, it was glossed over in the film as Gosling begins his slow usurpation of the role of Male Protector/Patriarch in the threesome’s familial structure.

The only way I can see the film attempting to take power away from Gosling’s character is in that he is a bit volatile, has little no emotional expression, and dies in the end (but still in a glorified and ambiguous way). Irene also seems a bit upset with him after seeing him crush someone’s skull in an elevator directly after kissing her.

Also, Irene’s character really pissed me off. She had no agency, and was always dependent on the men in the film. Her son was suffering, but he only seemed to get better once he had a White male father figure to hang out with. WTF.

I felt very glad there was alcohol available, because this movie annoyed me on many levels, and I was bummed to see the supposedly “feminist” man Ryan Gosling who has been the subject of the “Feminist Ryan Gosling” meme star in such a clueless and racialized film which propagates glorified White Americans and male violence.

I would not recommend this movie to my readers, ever.

Quite Annoyed,

Miss E

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9 comments on “Ryan Gosling Rant

  1. Bob says:

    E,

    I think you’re too harsh on Drive, but I haven’t seen it since early fall so my memory may be faulty. Albert Brooks and Ron Pearlman both play evil Jewish gangsters, but they do so in divergent ways. I don’t see either as reducible to anti-Semitic stereotypes or being much different if they were Italian, eastern European, or WASP gangsters other than Peralman’s resentment about his anti-Semitic treatment, which the film uses to make him more sympathetic or at least understandable. Oscar Isaac isn’t competent, but the Guatemalan/Cuban actor is in a sympathetic plight for both Ryan Gosling and the audience, and Gosling does appear to withdraw his advances towards Carey Mulligan when Isaac returns. My recollection and IMDb say he asks Carey Mulligan “where” is the boy’s father not “what.” Mulligan is understated, but that appears to have been the intention for both her and Gosling in order to capture a Sixteen Candles-type romance vibe. She has enough pluck to consider cheating on her husband, and her horror at Gosling’s violence seems to mirror the anticipated horror of the audience. Plenty of weak WASP characters abound in the film including Bryan Cranston and the numerous gunsels; one of whom is identified in the credits as Bearded Redneck.

    Gosling’s character may have the air of the white aristocrat of violence that Richard Slotkin describes in American mythology, but his reluctance towards violence, passivity, doomed end, and lack of agency in the face of the mob complicate that old trope. If I were inclined to write a conference paper on it, I could use Linda Williams, Manthia Diawara, Greg Forter, Megan Abbott, and Christopher Breu to unpack how positioning Gosling amongst 80s romance movie tropes, post-violence gore, his sacrificial death, and his economic passivity adds some intriguing wrinkles to the critique of white masculinity extractable from many noir narratives. While the film’s diversity and the novelist’s background don’t mean that Drive doesn’t promote racist or misogynist views, I think it adds more context. Gosling is Canadian, the director Danish, the screenwriter Iranian, and the cinematographer Jewish. James Sallis, one of my favorite novelists, has written sympathetic studies of black writers Chester Himes and Samuel Delany and Jewish writer David Goodis. Sallis is one of the few white crime writers to center a series on a black protagonist, has an array of interesting supporting female characters in his novels that I’ve read, and has written a novel set in Phoenix I want to read.

    Sorry you didn’t like the film; see you on Saturday

    Cheers,
    B

    • B,

      Thank you for sharing your insights, and in-depth knowledge of the Noir genre. I also encourage problematizing and complicating arguments, and enjoyed reading your counter points to my rant. I definitely do not have have the same level of familiarity with this type of movie as you seem to. I’ve watched my fair share of action movies, but as to mobster movies, not such a fan. I also am glad to learn of the “what is he” vs. “where is he” mistake. I think the filmmakers may need to go back and edit that, since three people I was sitting next to also heard “What.” I thank you for drawing my attention to it, and I think IMDB probably knows best. I am glad that it is less racist than I had originally thought, but it still made me very uncomfortable, and I don’t respect it as a film.

      While that does redeem the moment that made me jumpy to begin with, I really don’t think that the diverse national background of the cast changes my mind about the underlying message (as I interpreted it). Although it may be working within a very specific niche that I don’t appreciate, I also feel that because the movie is set in America, and in California, a state with racial tension and a history of bloodshed between different racial groups, it needs to take all of those factors into consideration before dissemination. I don’t necessarily believe in dumbing a piece of art down so that more people can understand it, but I do believe in making art responsibly, and with a consideration of audience. I feel that an overarching message of White guy coming out on top of all other actors of other ethnicities is still, even if working within an established genre, overplayed and not something that I would wish to see.

      I also believe, and was taught in art and writing classes, that when strong points or purposeful variations on an established genre are being performed, they need to be overt enough so that they are read by the viewer/ audience/ art critics as intentional. If someone with a roommate who is very into Noir and who interprets everything (because I just can’t help it generally) is unable to see where the original genre begins and the re-interpretation/ re-vitalization ends, then I feel like perhaps those nuances were too subtle.

      While I do see the point you made about reluctance towards violence in some moments during the film, I also think that in other ways “Driver” is violent throughout the film. For example, he doesn’t seem to even have a sense of”right and wrong” regarding criminal activity or violence against his own body before convening with Irene, and then he still shows violence towards his female “partner in crime” from the “heist gone wrong” like he’s had practice getting rid of the evidence before, by putting his gloves on before he straddles her and threatens her. It seems a little too effortless for him, hinting that he has a history of violence (and probably also towards women). It eeks me out, not going to lie.

      I really appreciate your thorough comment, and think that if you would be interested in making more in the future/ contributing reviews or posts, I would welcome them.

      E

  2. BobbyRedshirt says:

    I wonder what you would think of “The American” starring George Clooney

  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. While I think Ryan Gosling is pretty to look at, and not a bad actor, this movie was one of the worst that I’ve ever seen. http://wp.me/p1se8R-1Bw

    When I learned that “critics” were loving it, I lost all faith in critics. Great review!

  4. Bob says:

    E,

    First I saw of your comments. When Drive comes to the Grand Illusion, I’ll rewatch it with your concerns in mind. Thanks again for coming out to Tinker, Tailor, and I hope it’s adorable homoeroticism outweighed its potential tediousness. See you Saturday. 🙂

    Cheers,
    B

  5. Liz says:

    Was disappointed when I didn’t make it to see Drive in the theaters as it had gotten great reviews. Wondering now if it’s better I didn’t get out (and pay money) to see it. I enjoyed reading your review–doesn’t sound like the movie I thought it would be or even a movie I’d want to see. Time to delete it from the netflix queue?

    • Perhaps? If you enjoy Noir, then you may still like it. I know that a few of my friends did. However, I really did not enjoy it, as you can see above, and don’t really understand why others fawned over it so. It seems that almost anything Ryan Gosling touches turns into gold for some. Who knows though- you might like it?

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