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Overstreet

Drive

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If the violence in this film had been treated in a way that wasn't very, very disturbing, I would have found that... well... very, very disturbing. In a bad way.

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If the violence in this film had been treated in a way that wasn't very, very disturbing, I would have found that... well... very, very disturbing. In a bad way.

Sure.

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I want to like this more than I do, given how much I love Michael Mann and dreamy urban night shots, but I spent most of the film becoming irritated by Refn's overstuffed frames. The backgrounds in this film are so full of distractions that I could barely focus on anything the characters were saying. This would make a fantastic coffee table book, but in motion, I couldn't handle it. Not to mention the negative space, which is where I find myself in agreement with Kenny's assertion, back in this thread, that DRIVE is just as guilty of the sort of affected Euro art-house style it supposedly rescued the Cannes critics from, only even more so by insisting that such a "style" (if it could be summed up so easily) revitalizes its material without bringing any of the rich humanism, wit, or insight that I've come to associate in varying degrees with that "style." Negative space seems to exist in the film for the purposes of reminding us that this sort of genre doesn't usually feature negative space, making DRIVE into something special. And perhaps that's fine if DRIVE just wants to be a commentary on movies and this particular genre, but it doesn't sustain that line of inquiry under the pressure of Refn trying to have it both ways - asking us to root for his stylistic choices as they happen, and also emotionally invest in the story. I don't dislike it as much as BRONSON, which I think suffers from a similar need to overcook its visuals (that one did it more with grain and contrast), but as I sit here trying to find positives (the soundtrack, for one) I'm pretty sure DRIVE has killed any remaining interest I had for Refn.

And I agree with Peter about Gosling's performance. Past the first five minutes (which were excellent), I was never not aware of him "acting." It all winking and nudging for the first half and then goes straight, which is also about where the movie began to lose me. Gosling's quietude is as self-aware as Tom Hardy's bellowing. Maybe that's Refn's emerging trademark: totally self-aware performances that get left behind when Refn decides around the third act transition that he's done being self-reflexive.

I'm going to go watch THIEF now. I don't think it bodes well for DRIVE.

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Mike D'Angelo:

Aaaaand I believe we've now reached perfect DRIVE equilibrium, with the backlash reaching the same operatic heights as the original hype.

Wait a minute... really? Apart from Glenn Kenny, who else has been "backlashing" this film?

Ian Grey.

Hmm, the story below seems to indicate the "backlash" is actually reflective of the audience, not the critics.

- - -

The "Drive" backlash: Too violent, too arty or both?

The Ryan Gosling thriller has great reviews but dreadful word of mouth. Salon writers discuss what went wrong

Salon.com, September 23

Post-Mortem: Why Young Guys Didn’t ‘Drive’

Younger males used to flock to such an original, violent, and stylized R-rated film that breaks a lot of rules. They didn’t. But now young guys who used to be Hollywood’s target audience are just not consistently (and indiscriminately) going to the movies anymore. The reason is either financial or too many other entertainment choices. That was the gist of internal conversations inside studios all summer when uncompelling fare like Conan The Barbarian, Fright Night, Cowboys & Aliens, and Green Lantern fell short with young guys. ”It didn’t dawn on us they weren’t coming to the malls,” one perplexed exec told me. “Instead, adults did.” . . .

Deadline.com, September 25

- - -

Nicholas wrote:

: You'll have to better explain how "utter blanks" are not unpredictable?

I didn't say they were not unpredictable. I said the unpredictability was not "effective".

: In other words, it seems like you're saying "none of these points are founded! That's completely arbitrary!"

Not so much that they aren't founded, but they aren't really connected. Or something. If Gosling's performance had been better, then at least some of these points could have been "founded" in THAT, at least. But as it is, I never bought into Gosling's characters as a character: he was just an actor caught on film. Apparently Nathan and even Jeff, to some degree, had the same reaction.

: And you've raised this point twice now about watching "Gosling the actor" as opposed to "Driver the character." Well, I don't know, I could be wrong here, but isn't that a necessary possibility when he's playing a nameless, "utter blank?"

Actually, no.

: In sum, I think what really worked for me with this film is how its irony/form/feel highlighted the silliness of many of the tropes often associated with the genre. In this way, it has us raise the sort of questions/points you're kind of railing against without directly addressing them.

Well, there IS such a thing as "the wrong question". I don't bother to answer questions that are rooted in false premises, for example. So while I don't know which particular questions/points you think I'm not addressing, all I can say is that the film could have done a better job of "raising" whatever sorts of "questions" it wanted to raise (assuming that it did, indeed, want to raise any).

Overstreet wrote:

: Okay, that's not persuasive evidence of anything. But it is intriguing enough to make me suspect that it has something to do with his history.

Well, he used to be a boy himself, of course. But unless you can point to something more specific, anything beyond that is reading INTO something, not reading BETWEEN the lines or anything like that.

: I didn't offer a "reading" as in "I propose that this is his history, and here is my evidence." I offered an intuition. A hunch. A maybe.

Sure. But it's a hunch that you've defaulted to on a number of occasions now, so at a certain point I begin to wonder if that sort of reading owes more to the critic than to the thing being critiqued.

: But Punch-drunk Love? Paul Thomas Anderson isn't the sort of storyteller to deliver a main character without having given some thought to his history.

Or hers, in this case.

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If there is a critical backlash, Anthony Lane is part of it.

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Fair enough, Peter.

Yeah, I'm not trying to question your reaction or dispute that other people have shared it. I'm merely saying that just as many people have found Gosling's performance admirable, even if he's ultimately under the shadow of Refn's explicit direction. Plenty of people have commented on the film's unpredictability being effective as well. My aim has not been to question the "legitimacy" of your reaction so much as to question what seems to be your taking that approach yourself. You're certainly right to assert that the merit of these two points (Gosling's performance and the film's unpredictability) are, at least in part, connected to one another.

Sorry for my poorly worded sentence, but I didn't mean that you're not directly addressing the questions/points being raised, but that the film doesn't directly address them, per your reminders. But just because a film doesn't directly address or raise a question, does not make it a "false premise," by any stretch.

A character with no background and no relational ties (until his "boy meets girl" story) is a character that is lacking in content. I say it is a possibility that a well known actor playing this type of role will come across as Actor because we as the audience are filling in the character-void with content. It is not necessarily the case, but it is a possibility (just realized I said "necessary possibility"!).

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I am really puzzled by Refn. I have watched about half of his films for whatever reason, and have really only liked Bronson so far. But even there, I had a lot of reservations that were confirmed in spades by Valhalla Rising (which if pressed, is the worst film I have ever seen).

Whatever Drive is about, it is eloquent in the same way Bronson was eloquent. I agree with above comments that trying to read the film within a "redemptive" framework is silly. Redemption is an irrelevant concept for Refn, which I felt was pretty well indicated from the get-go with the scorpion and frog reference. I have not read the book the film is based on, but the whole thing screamed Elmore Leonard to me even down to the garages and late-night pie a la mode eating. And Leonard is not really known for redemption either.

Even if Gosling's acting comes across as "acting" the whole film is really a giant act, so this didn't distract me at all. In addition, I can't think of a recent performance that captures barely contained rage as well as the diner confrontation. This rage is very well juxtaposed by the scenes he shares with the little boy down the hall, which are disarmingly tender. As a near middle-aged guy, I know what that kind of rage looks like and feels like, and this kind of anger may really be the key to Refn's filmography. Every film I have seen by him is about anger, and this anger often has no backstory at all. It is just present in the film and makes everything fall apart in the end. The kind of films we link with the concept of "redemptive violence" usually have a character that gets really really angry, but it is okay because they are directing it toward injustice, toward the bad guy. But in Refn's films there is usually an angry guy that is angry for no discernable reason. And throughout the course of the film this anger is never corrected or deconstructed, it is simply allowed to exist in balance with everything else. In other words Driver, like Refn, is a Taoist.

I am just rambling here, but so does Refn.

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I am really puzzled by Refn. I have watched about half of his films for whatever reason, and have really only liked Bronson so far. But even there, I had a lot of reservations that were confirmed in spades by Valhalla Rising (which if pressed, is the worst film I have ever seen).

I have to say that I'm puzzled by some of the favorable references to VALHALLA RISING that pop up in reviews of DRIVE. I finally made it through the whole film, and boy, is it terrible.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I really want to give this movie an unqualified endorsement. The lead actors especially Brooks, Gosling and Cranson are amazing and the film is beautifully shot and successfully does something different with the action genre. There are so many great moments I want to see again.

But I doubt I ever will because of the brutality of the violence. I need some explanation of the Driver's history to explain his change from "I don't carry a gun" to the senseless violence we see him carry out later on. Even so do we really need to see

Christina Hendricks' face get liquified by a shotgun? *Insert the several other unwatchable scences*

No we don't. The phrase that keeps coming to mind is "violence porn."

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The phrase that keeps coming to mind is "violence porn."

I fully understand your response to the violence here (and Drive is even kind of Refn-light compared to a few other of his films). But I don't think that terms like "gratuitous" or "violence-porn" are completely accurate. I think Refn's films are about a certain kind of inexplicable destructive anger, and the violence is a necessary counterpart to this. I am far more put off by gratuitous violence in a film that makes us feel better about what we are watching because it frames all this violence as "redemptive."

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Leary, I didn't see the movie that way. The elevator scene could definitely be read that way, because he goes from a long-held-off expression of his passion for the woman just before lashing out at his attacker. But the scene that Deb mentioned -- I didn't see any anger there, just a stone-cold killer doing what he knew how to do. The key element is that he is good at killing, and that's because we as the audience probably are not, so we can vicariously enjoy him killing "for us"--and then, we can walk out feeling good about ourselves, because by the end, he's dead and thus we have some distance from him -- we can imagine we're not like him. We can have our cake and eat it too.

If I'm reading JO right, I can agree with this:

First of all, it's as recognizable as a Formula One racecar in its, well, formulaic elements. So of *course* it's about a bad guy trying to do some good before it's too late. But the film is so steeped in fantasies... the fantasies of the characters, and the lens of fantasy through which the story is told, that I think the movie asks us to join the joke of its own rather ludicrous fantasy... the idea that a bad guy can solve things by applying his destructive powers to the right cause.

...

If I see anything "redemptive" about this film, it's that it knows these stories can't be told seriously anymore. So it's self-conscious all the way through, right down to the theme song that wraps up the "message" with such a neat, shiny bow at more than one point in the film.

I don't feel the same way about the genre that he does, but I think he's gotten close to the essence of Refn was trying for. When JO says "joke", I see myself as trying to say the same thing by "imagined distance". In this case, I didn't "get" the joke, or didn't feel the distance, so I was repelled by the violence. But even if I hadn't been, I'd still feel that it was "gratuitous", in the sense that the violence is the meaning, it's not a key to a deeper meaning.

Edited by David Smedberg

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Leary, I didn't see the movie that way. The elevator scene could definitely be read that way, because he goes from a long-held-off expression of his passion for the woman just before lashing out at his attacker. But the scene that Deb mentioned -- I didn't see any anger there, just a stone-cold killer doing what he knew how to do. The key element is that he is good at killing

But we have seen his anger in fits and starts. Refn poses this inexplicable anger as the underlying motivation for who Driver is and why he does what he does. There is a great deal of something in his past that qualifies this anger, but that backstory is unimportant. As you say, the key element is that he is good at killing. That is pretty much it. This has been the kind of character Refn has returned to again and again, and as I suggest above, Driver is more Taoist than anything. Refn sees dualities where most of us see moralities. We can't have our cake and eat it too because there is no cake. (Or as the meme goes: The cake is a lie.)

Either way, I end up at the same place as JO with this one, just from a different angle. Even if I don't care for the film that much, it is the first time I have found Refn interesting.

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Nicholas wrote:

: But just because a film doesn't directly address or raise a question, does not make it a "false premise," by any stretch.

Well, I never said that the film was rooting its questions in "false premises". In fact, I explicitly doubted whether the film was raising any questions at all!

A "false premise" might be the assumption (or implication) that I need to "address" certain questions when I'm not even sure they exist in the first place. First the questions must be articulated (whether by the film or its defenders); *then* I can address them.

Ryan H. wrote:

: I have to say that I'm puzzled by some of the favorable references to VALHALLA RISING that pop up in reviews of DRIVE. I finally made it through the whole film, and boy, is it terrible.

I just noticed that it's available on Netflix, even here in Canada. I may have to watch this soon, just because.

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I kinda thought this film sucked.

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I kinda thought this film sucked.

But only because I liked it quite a bit, right?

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I kinda thought this film sucked.

But only because I liked it quite a bit, right?

I have long suspected this in general about the Arts and Faith community. Certain folks will hate a movie based on who seems to like it. :)

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I kinda thought this film sucked.

But only because I liked it quite a bit, right?

I have long suspected this in general about the Arts and Faith community. Certain folks will hate a movie based on who seems to like it. :)

No, Anders is OK in my book cuz he likes the new LvT.

I don't know. I could go down the list. It just doesn't seem worth the effort. I haven't posted in a while cuz I'm simply not seeing that many movies. I guess I thought this would be the one to see. Eeh, I could've lived without it.

Liked the Mates of State-ripoff soundtrack though.

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Hey, Christian. Time to start your Christmas wish list:

drivejacket.jpg

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Nice.

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Hmm, the story below seems to indicate the "backlash" is actually reflective of the audience, not the critics.

And now someone's suing, because she apparently felt that the trailer had promised her a Fast Five-style movie, and Drive was... not that.

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Hmm, the story below seems to indicate the "backlash" is actually reflective of the audience, not the critics.

And now someone's suing, because she apparently felt that the trailer had promised her a Fast Five-style movie, and Drive was... not that.

Hahahahahahahaha!!!

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Hmm, the story below seems to indicate the "backlash" is actually reflective of the audience, not the critics.

And now someone's suing, because she apparently felt that the trailer had promised her a Fast Five-style movie, and Drive was... not that.

It gets harder to distinguish The Onion from the real world every day.

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He likes Night of the Hunter..... so he must be alright.

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