Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More thoughts on Drive, in response to Salon's "The Drive backlash: Too violent, too arty or both?" (where I am paraphrased).

I was paraphrased, somewhat disparagingly in an article from Salon last week that dealt with audiences not quite being as on-board with Drive as critics. I was referred to as "champion of the mainstream, audience-pleasing cinema" and held up as one of the few critics who did not like Drive.  This was my response (HERE is my original review), and I thought I'd share it here as well.

I suppose I've earned the 'defender of the mainstream' tag, as I've long felt that it's important to point out when a major studio picture does it right, as much as when an arthouse picture does it wrong. As I've often said, when we write-off The Mummy or Avatar, we deserve Prince of Persia or Tron: Legacy.  Having said that, what I most disliked about Drive were what I felt its bids at mainstream pandering, or at least its ideology that seems more fit for a fourteen-year old boy.

We're supposed to think 'Driver' is cool and sophisticated, icy and prone to acts of sudden violence. Yet we're also supposed to think that he's some kind of hero (so says the soundtrack, quite literally) because he has token feelings for his cute neighbor and is nice to her son. At the end of the day, we're supposed to actively root for him purely because Ryan Gosling is a handsome movie star and because Carey Mulligan is pretty.  I have no problem with anti-heroes, but I loathe films where the anti-hero is supposed to be 'a hero' because he is played by a big star or because said scoundrel takes a token interest in the token love interest. It's just a variation on the 'He's not so bad because he cries at Opera' cliche.

has been compared to Point Blank quite a bit, but at least that picture had the courage of its convictions. Lee Marvin was an unsympathetic bastard from start to finish. There was no need to make him 'relatable' or heroic by pairing him with a pretty girl or a kid. Heck, even Mel Gibson's Payback (even the compromised theatrical cut) didn't actually make his character into a hero in any conventional sense.  Despite the title of the Salon piece in question, Drive didn't turn me off because it was 'too violent' (it's no worse than any conventional R-rated action picture) or because it was 'too artsy'. It turned me off because it was a painfully conventional and contrived narrative that guises up its by-the-books story and utter lack of character with a token amount of visual panache.  To paraphrase Albert Brooks's stunningly self-referential line, critics said that Drive was cool, artsy, and European, but really it's simplistic and conventional. I'd no more give a pass to Drive for being 'cool' than I would let Tron: Legacy slide because it had lots of lights and 3D effects. Be it at the megeplex or the arthouse, I do demand some substance with my style.

HAVING said all of that, the film has been financially successful to the extent that it needed to be. At a cost of $13 million plus token marketing, it opened with $11 million and will likely gross around $25 million or more before overseas and home-video money rolls in. It was never a film that was meant to appeal to everyone or be a massive across-the-board hit. It was a small movie that will make a small profit, having been seen and enjoyed by those who it was intended for. If we want more movies like Drive (or, arguably better variations like The American), we can't whine when they end up grossing under $50 million, as long as they didn't cost $50 million to make in the first place.

Now you get a chance to tell me I'm an idiot all over again.  Enjoy...

Scott Mendelson


SweetCalves said...

Don't stress. It's just the internet. It's not real.

Leslie Byron Pitt said...

While I disagree with you on Drive, your comments do ring true on one of Refn's previous films; Valhalla Rising which I watched afterwards. Very dreary

I don't think Drive is sophisticated in any shape or form and I think the track you refer to is ironic (I know I know). I think it's a genre piece that is elevated by it's visual style and decision not to mince words with needless dialogue. I also think that the film develops the characters well visually. I got everything I needed to know about the characters by their surrounding and actions and glances (which you disliked). I never considered him a hero in any sense nor did I relate heroics to him because it's Ryan Gosling.

In fact I like the fact that his good intentions but cloudy morals place him in the situation that he finds himself. Especially at the end as we know the relationship is doomed. His intentions are good but he can't change who he is. That's what I got from it.

chococat said...

Gosling is not suited to this role. He's too "cute" and maybe the filmmaker thought it would be a more shocking or interesting character simply because he was so.

I disagree.

I've seen both Drive and Ides of March and Gosling was fabulous in Ides but silly in Drive. In Ides, he seemed idealistic and was portrayed as such, but there was always something "not quite right" about him and Gosling is perfectly cast as an "innocent" who is not what he seems. In Drive, he's almost laughable. He doesn't have the gravitas of a McQueen or Eastwood (or Marvin) to pull this off. Not that we're expecting him to be a complete psycho, but I agree Scott, that he should never have been likable (and given Mulligan's character's interest in "bad boys" it would have been perfectly natural for her to have been drawn to him-any more tragic).

I hated drive because it simply didn't have a story I could sink my teeth into.

That being said, Albert Brooks was AMAZING and should get a BSA nod for his performance. Now that, was a brilliant bit of casting...

Ziserwahn said...

I have a feeling there will be a lot of back trackers once Drive hits blu ray. Its has 0 rewatchability as it barely has any watchability. There's simply no "there" there.


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