Since I’ve been absorbing much of my movie news via the internet, being so far removed from the action and not really having people to talk with, DRIVE has been on the top of my lists of movies I’ve been dying to see this year. A great preview, great reviews, and most of my friends raving over it via Facebook. It’s gonna be great.
And, well, it is I guess. But I wasn’t particularly floored by it.
When Albert Brooks’ character talks about the movies he used to produce he laughs and says something to the effect of “they say they felt European.” Fitting, of course. Director Nicolas Winding Refn know exactly what he’s doing, and how every single moment should be captured, and just how self-aware to make the film. Because despite it’s American pedigree (Danish director aside), American cast (well, except Carey Mulligan), and patently American subject matter (we love cars!) it’s very European in style. Slow, sparse, stylish, and….techno music. It’s all present very European…-ey. But it tweaks and plays with the style here and there.
Sometimes I found it took these notes a bit too extreme. Ryan Gosling’s character is quiet, stoic, and contained. But almost too much at times. He’s almost robotic. Of course, this is on purpose and is the point. By putting up this wall between himself and others (and the audience) it makes us hang on every single thing he says and does. And how he says it. Carey Mulligan clearly disarms him, but he shows it as subtly as humanly possible. Still, there are times where he’s frustratingly robotic and it stifles the mood.
The music will push the everything too far in the opposite direction. The music is what most people seem to be talking about (but I think a lot of people will take the chance to “like” pre-approved obscure indie/hipster Euro techno), and one song in particular was just on the verge of cloying. The song is “A Real Hero” by (person? group?) College and it works perfectly. Too perfectly. The words are so on the nose and obvious to the narrative that it’s simultaneously wonderful and distracting. I’m still not sure how to really feel about it.
There’s little action in the film (but it’s nothing to sue over!), but it effective, gripping, and exciting stuff. Not a car chase for the ages, but certainly a very good one. The violence, which there’s also not a lot of, is especially graphic. I would say out of place, but that would be a lie. It’s also a tool Refn uses to play with the genre and expectations and whatnot. We expect some action movie fightin’ and stuff, but we don’t expect it to be so rough. It works here (unlike James Gunn’s SUPER, where it failed).
Albert Brooks is worth talking about too. Apart from the music, Brooks is probably the second most talked about thing in DRIVE. And with good reason, because his performance is chilling and crazy good. I wish he would do more movies. His own or in others.
Part of me is worried that my method of watching movies right now is starting to effect how I enjoy and process them. I watch movies on my laptop in bed, which is not an ideal setup. I could watch them on my computer monitor in the living room, but chair is too uncomfortable and I find the surroundings more distracting than the bedroom. Regardless, I do wonder if I had seen this properly in a theatre, or even just on a TV while sitting on a couch, I would feel more enthused about DRIVE.
I also worry I’m using too many parentheticals (I realize there’s no plural of that word but…shit, I did it again).