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Lost River

Lost_River_posterI feel that if I had a chance to make a film I would make a film like Lost River.  By that I mean a film with influence, passion, ambition, and wild ideas…but it wouldn’t be very good at all.  Ryan Gosling is a truly talented actor.  He’s spent his years honing his craft and creating amazing films like Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson, and of course his work with director Nicolas Winding Refn, Only God Forgives and Drive.  This is his first attempt behind the lens.

The film follows Billy (Christina Hendricks) who lives in a run down home in Detroit with her two sons Bones and Franky. Billy is under water on her home as she signed a variable mortgage that she shouldn’t have been approved for.  She tries to plead with her new loan officer Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) in order to keep the home. He tries to understand why she would want to because she owes so much on it?  It’s her home.  It’s always been her home she tells him.  Dave hands Billy a card with an address on it on her way out saying it’s a job offer.

Meanwhile Bones is trying to find ways to make money, and gets the bright idea to start ripping out the copper pipes in abandoned homes and selling them.  The only problem is someone else has been doing this for a while.  A thug named Bully (Dr. Who’s Matt Smith) owns this town.  He’s the resident criminal, and Bones better watch out.

Billy finally tells Bones the truth on the house after a nearby house gets knocked down.  They have 3 months she tells him, and they have to find a way.  As Billy and Bones set out we meet the neighbor Rat (Saoirse Ronan) who says that the land they all live on is cursed, and the only way to break the curse is to bring a piece of a neighboring flooded town to the surface and back to this land.  Meanwhile we jump back to Billy as she follows the card given to her by Dave and ends up at a particularly gruesome burlesque show.  Billy meets Cat (Eva Mendes) who is a dancer.  Cat interviews Billy asking her about her entertainment experience.

The lives of Bones and Rat intersect as Rat tells him her story of the old land that is under water.  They set off together but encounter Bully and his crew along the way as well.  This story continues separate from the story of Billy.  Bones and Rat set out to lift the curse of the land, while Billy tries to see if she can raise the money to save the house.

I found the setting of the film to be the most interesting.  Being from the midwest of familiar with the struggles of Detroit.  I visit there often and have seen the rows of abandoned homes, left for dead throughout the city.  Lost River is just one story of how one woman tries to save her home and her family there.

Lost River is a film that feels like a copy of a copy of Refn and his influences, mainly the films of director Alejandro Jodorowsky.  Along the way it feels like a David Gordon Green film stuck inside with a dash of The Warriors as well.  Basically it’s a big jumbled mess of ideas and unfortunately the entire story gets lost along the way. Gosling takes a piece here, and a piece there, and an idea here and an idea there, but he doesn’t really make a coherent film out of the ingredients.  It’s kind of like screwing up a brand new recipe.  Does that make it such a horrible film along the way though, especially for a first time director like Gosling? No, not really.  Within all the pieces there are some great moments that operate on their own. Some of the scenes are beautifully shot.  Gosling just needs to figure out how to put it all together.

Gosling is at a point in his career where he has the clout and power to take his talents behind the lens, and who can blame him for wanting to especially if he has the passion to do so.  The problem is that he does not yet posses the talent to do so.  Lost River is the first step in what might become a very promising career as a director.  It’s just way too soon to tell.

Grade: C+