With great fame comes great expectations, and these were high for Ryan Gosling’s first effort behind the camera.
To say Lost River doesn’t meet them is an understatement, as the Drive actor misfires spectacularly in this neon-saturated fever dream.
The signs were promising; a great cast of A-list talent and a slot in Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard category for up-and-coming directors. But Gosling tries so hard
to make his film cool that he focuses all his efforts on style and neglects the substance.
There’s not really much in the way of plot, but what there is struggles to say something meaningful about the decay of the American dream.
Christina Hendricks plays Billy, a single mum who takes a job at a creepy local cabaret run by her slimy bank manager Dave (The Dark Knight Rises‘ Ben Mendelsohn) after falling behind with her mortgage payments.
Her son Bones (Agents Of SHIELDs‘ Iain De Caestecker) is the brooding, silent type (Gosling, basically) who tries to help by looking for scrap copper to sell while romancing his neighbour, Rat (Byzantium‘s Saoirse Ronan) and being chased by local thug Bully (Doctor Who‘s Matt Smith, who mainly screams a lot).
Gosling throws in a lot of ideas, the result being a messy pastiche of his many directing heroes: Nicolas Winding Refn, Derek Cianfrance and David Lynch are the most obvious, but he also borrows from Terrence Malick, Harmony Korine and Dario Argento. Visually, however, it’s sublime, like a hipster fashion shoot come to life, with some eye-catching images and a menacing score.
But as the story unfolds, it starts to feel like all the pretty shots are being linked together by a weak narrative, with events in this lurid dark-fantasy world becoming more and more arbitrary. The stilted dialogue – also penned by Gosling – doesn’t help either.
All in all, it’s a muddled debut – all good looks, but not much else underneath.