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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

The Brave One… For Them

Watching Fracture, for the first time in my experience of watching Ryan Gosling work, I wonder whether he is, indeed, lacking the skills to be the biggest movie star in the world. Or maybe he has to decide, as Madonna never did, to let it go on screen when it is not a hard ass indie. I mean, he was painfully lacking charm in this film while he leaked it all over Half Nelson in what looked like absolute effortlessness

22 Responses to “The Brave One… For Them”

  1. jeffmcm says:

    One of the skills to be ‘the biggest movie star in the world’ has got to be the desire for that status, which means that Gosling absolutely does not have the skills.

  2. David Poland says:

    There are few absolutes, J-Mc… one of the biggest lessons you need to learn.

  3. CaptainZahn says:

    The Brave One looks like a big howler to me. I hope I’m wrong…but the fact that it was written by guys who wrote for the Witchblade tv series doesn’t seem like a good sign.

  4. Ju-osh says:

    I agree that Jordan is one of the best, most consistently interesting filmmakers working today. In addition to Frears (whom you mentioned), I’d also compare him to Jim Sheridan. These three guys all have a gift for making ‘classy’ films fun and ‘popcorn’ pics a cut above.

  5. Spacesheik says:

    Once in a while stardom drops in your lap. Doesn’t matter what you look like, doesn’t matter what you’ve appeared in – when it hits its really hits — Gene Hackman is an example of that, due to his fearless, brilliant Popeye Doyle performance. And he was over 40 when it happened, I believe.
    But these are different times now, the roles are not so good – so I also have to agree with JCM that Ryan Gosling – a good actor – doesn’t really seem to want stardom or crave the limelight in any way.
    The ones who do aspire to commercial projects and/or the limelight like Jude Law, Josh Hartnett, Jake Gyllenhall, Josh Lucas etc have more misses than hits (Ryan Gosling will probably cinematically outlive them all).
    Then you have the other actors, closer to Gosling’s predisposition that prefer to choose interesting roles as opposed to commercial fare, like Heath Ledger, another dude who probably will never be a star, even though he’s got the talent and looks – he just doesnt seem that interested in it.
    Gosling and Ledger and people of that ilk will be the Robert Downey Jrs of tommorow, actors doing solid work in flicks, maybe not stars but still working.
    But one thing is for sure you can’t manufacture stardom, yo can throw big budget studio roles at people like Josh Lucas but if he doesn’t catch on, he doesn’t catch on, end of story. Nothing new here, studios have been doing this for decades after the tinseltown’s golden era ended, you can give the charismatic Bekim Fehmiu THE ADVENTURERS and you can give the good-looking Christopher Jones RYANS DAUGHTER and LOOKING GLASS WAR but it wont make him a star either. They were well known then, no one remember them now.
    Who will people remember 30 years from now? Ryan Gosling or Josh Hartnett.

  6. jeffmcm says:

    Make me a list, DP. You made a statement, I responded to it.

  7. Nicol D says:

    I do not think Gosling is a ‘star’ in the sense of the word, but I think much of it will depend on how many chances he gets and wants from Hollywood.
    Look at guys like Pitt and Clooney. Their early resumes are riddled with flops, but they kept wanting chances and getting them until it worked.
    I even remember a people Mag article from the 80’s about Mel Gibson after Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome flopped. It said something like ‘The star everyone talks about but nobody wants to see’. Then he got Lethal Weapon. Point is, things can change so long as he wants it, goes to the right parties and gets the right chances.
    As for The Brave One; I am looking forward to it. I would not call Jordan a great director but certainly a very good one. This looks a roll Foster is tailor made for.
    As for the racial politics, that is tough. I hope the film neither indulges in race baiting fantasies but also does not play PC with it either. I doubt the former but fear the latter. If it is gritty and speaks to truth, it will find an audience.
    The New York setting is odd though.

  8. djk813 says:

    Would Johnny Depp qualify as one of the biggest movie stars in the world who didn’t particularly want that status?

  9. Nicol D says:

    I think one could argue that Depp did not want that status and then after having his fill of the indie world – did – want that status and went for it.
    His choices for the past 7 years or so have been increasingly commercial. I do not say that as a bad thing either. He seems to be a star that has a wide appeal and the overall grosses to back it up unlike say Pitt.

  10. jeffmcm says:

    Why is the New York setting odd?

  11. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Wow, I totally disagree with Poland on Gosling’s peformance in FRACTURE, a ridiculous movie with a ridiculous script. Gosling was excellent and continually compelling in a nothing role. His charisma shines through, and he seems to be having fun with it, opposite an Anthony Hopkins that Poland rightly points out is going through the motions, and to my eyes, doing a poor imitation of himself.
    Now I also though Gosling was a total dud in THE NOTEBOOK, despite that movie’s success. I simply did not see the charisma there.
    It’s really not fair to compare Gosling’s performance in a nothing role in the ridiculous FRACTURE to Norton’s performace in a great role in the equally ridiculous PRIMAL FEAR. Gosling was playing the straight man in his film, the same way Gere was in PRIMAL FEAR. It was Hopkins who got the Norton/interesting role, even if he butchered it.
    But I do agree that maybe Gosling doesn’t want to be Tom Cruise, and has his heart set more in the indie world than in the world of superstars. More power to him if that’s the case. My hope is he can be the actors version of a Soderbergh, easily transitioning between the two worlds. I am a big fan. And think he was the only think making FRACTURE not a complete waste of film.
    As for Neil Jordan, yes, one of the best directors working today, and Jodie Foster one of our greatest stars. Great news to hear the film is a solid, I have to admit while I loved the package I was skeptical of the film because it seems like a standard thriller. But good notices like that will get me to the theatre.
    With Neil Jordan, I can’t say I thought his work on THE GOOD THIEF was brilliant, and I’m a huge Nick Nolte fan. Personally, I would put BUTCHER BOY up there with END OF THE AFFAIR and THE CRYING GAME as absolute masterpieces from just an amazing writer/director.
    Let’s hope Neil Jordan finally gets his BORGIA protect off the ground. The script is amazing, and the story is as good as it gets. And the casting they had set – Colin Farrell and Scarlett Johanson, is close to perfect. But apparently the film fell apart last year or whenever after Colin Farrell went into rehab after the MIAMI VICE shoot and they couldn’t work out the schedules… I hope Jordan gets that film up, it could be his best yet…

  12. Nicol D says:

    Jeff,
    The NT setting is odd just because it is not as potent as it was 15 or 20 years ago when crime was more rampant. Guiliani cleaned up a whole lot of it and NY is no longer considered the ‘crime zone’ it was for a generation. Apparently The Brave One acknowledges this, so it probably won’t affect the film in anything other then in an academic sense.

  13. Nicol D says:

    That should be…the NY setting…I don’t think the film down in the Australian outback.

  14. jeffmcm says:

    That’s what I figured, definitely it’s not the NYC of Death Wish but I don’t think it’s _that_ odd. An unrban revenge thriller in Washington DC would be interesting.

  15. David Poland says:

    Interestingly, as I think about it, NY really was Big Urban Center in this film. The park is used a lot and the various neighborhoods are played in, but it really could have been set in another city and gained or lost nothing… at least the way the film is made.

  16. seenmyverite? says:

    SOME SPOILERS for FRACTURE
    I agree about the gifts of Neil Jordan, and Frears, and especially Sheridan, as Ju-osh mentioned, who I think is one of the greats, but then I’m a fan of the film talent that comes out of Ireland. I’m looking forward to The Brave One.
    I disagree about Gosling’s performance in Fracture. I thought it was excellent.
    And Carpetmuncher, the film was better than I thought it would be. It just went against the typical grain, which I think is ballsy. I went in thinking it would be the conventional Underdog Lawyer Makes Good, like The Firm and The Rainmaker. But the screenplay had twists and nuances that placed it above the usual genre fare, and Gosling nailed them.
    I didn’t see him as playing the “straight man” as Poland said. Instead of the usual screenplay tactic of making sure the Antagonist has his good side like the Protagonist (like Gene Hackman in The Firm), this film makes it clear that our Protagonist has more in common with the Antagonist. They are both egotistical assholes who like to be in control and assume they are, and like to win and assume they will.
    Like The Firm and Rainmaker, the leads are smart, self-made young lawyers with a tough past. But unlike those men, Gosling isn’t an underdog, and there’s no “good woman” waiting in the wings. This movie spends the first 45 minutes showing what an asshole Gosling is. He only takes the cases he can win, and got the interview for his new high-paying job because he reneged on his word with another attorney. While on the crime scene at his old job, after being told they’re already in trouble with the case, he’s on the phone talking to his new office about how to decorate it. When he sees a picture of the murdered woman, he can only say flippantly that she’s pretty. He’s so arrogant that when he meets his new boss at a prestigious firm, she warns him that he doesn’t have the job yet, and his response is to try to seduce her. (When Hopkins says, “you’re a winner, Willy” I thought of Willy Loman.)
    Unlike most movies that are good guy vs. bad guy, Gosling has to decide late into the film if he’s going to be a good guy or a bad guy. Unlike Jerry Maguire, who “grows a conscience” while the beginning credits are still rolling, Gosling doesn’t get his until the end of the 2nd act. Even though he stays on the case at the beginning of the 1st act because he wants to fight the fight he can win, he stays on it at the end of the 2nd because he wants to fight the fight that needs fighting. (As Sorkin would say.) It’s a very slow character change, and he’s really only got the 3rd act to win us over and make us believe it.
    Gosling chose another tough, nuanced, non-traditional role, and pulled it off. Doesn’t seem like he thinks Indie vs. Big Budget, but goes for the role/script/director, like a Sean Penn or Depp.

  17. Jerry Colvin says:

    Ugh, what’s this new story breaking tonight that Ebert is not allowing them to use thumbs-up thumbs-down on the Ebert & Roeper show until they work out his new contract? This AP story says they have already taped the next two episodes not using the thumb ratings… You would have thought they’d have settled something like this long ago!
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/24/AR2007082402077.html

  18. Nicol D says:

    Regarding the location, it is interesting how it can either fade into the background of a film or be the defining factor of it.
    With films like the original Death Wish, Ghostbusters or obviously Manhattan, New York plays a key ‘character’ in the film. I’ll look forward to seeing how this film uses or doesn’t use it.
    I suppose if the film makes the city more universal, that could be a good thing as NY is certainly not perceived to be the only large urban center with crime any more.
    That said, it would be interesting to set a film like this in say a Chicago.

  19. leahnz says:

    i’ll go see anything jodi foster is in. i distinctly remember the first movie role i saw her in (she was on tv as well when i was a kid), taxi driver, and i’ve had a thing for jodi ever since (what i refer to as a non-lesbian movie star crush). i’ve watched her grow up on screen and i think she’s unique and brilliant.
    occasionally one of her performances doesn’t do it for me, like ‘flight plan’, but she is a gifted actress who will no doubt go down in history as one of the greats of her generation. she doesn’t make many films now so i’m glad she’s chosen a role that sounds challenging.

  20. I relish the chance to see Jodie on screen (although I skipped Flightplan for DVD and ugh, terrible) and with Neil Jordan behind the camera? Even better. I finally managed to see The Crying Game for the first time a few weeks back (only just released on DVD here) and it was… very wow. Stunning cinema, there.
    Can you imagine Jordan directing Harry Potter? That’s not a wand in Hermoine’s pocket*.
    *I’m so incredibly sorry but… but… I couldn’t resist!

  21. I relish the chance to see Jodie on screen (although I skipped Flightplan for DVD and ugh, terrible) and with Neil Jordan behind the camera? Even better. I finally managed to see The Crying Game for the first time a few weeks back (only just released on DVD here) and it was… very wow. Stunning cinema, there.
    Can you imagine Jordan directing Harry Potter? That’s not a wand in Hermoine’s pocket*.
    *I’m so incredibly sorry but… but… I couldn’t resist!

  22. sorry for the double post. It was sitting there for a few minutes after I pressed post but nothing was happening so I pressed it again. Oh well.

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