HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Lost River
HTS Overall Score:71
I love Ryan Gosling. Much like Matthew McConaughey he started out playing the classic pretty boy roles, charming women with a wink and a smile (and of course some fabulous abs) and then moving on to more deeply involving roles. “The Place Beyond the Pines”, “Driver”, even “Only God Forgives” blew me away. So when I heard that Gosling was making his first run as a director, I HAD to give his film a watch. “Lost River” borrows very heavily from “Only God Forgives” director Nicolas Refn, as well as tidbits and influences from David Cronenberg, Mario Bava, and David Lynch. Those comparisons right there should give you an idea of the type of film that lies ahead, but unfortunately you can have all the building blocks in the world at your disposal, but if you can’t put them together right, the end result is a bit messy.
The story is actually quite simple in terms of narration. The Town of Lost River is fading into obscurity. One of those old and dilapidated places that has seen better days, both in terms of moral and physically. The place is falling apart and there doesn’t seem to be much that would make someone desire to live there. A single mother, Billy (Hendricks), DOES want to live there, though. Desperate to save her childhood home, she takes a job at a local gorehouse cinema. A rough and tumble joint that caters to the baser violent cravings of humanity, it intertwines the basics of a carnival and horror shoe into one surreal stage show. She doesn’t exactly have any talents to speak of, but Billy is soon taken under the wing of Cat (Eva Mendes) and in the blink of an eye is putting on a bloody good show for all the gore thirsty patrons. However, Dave (Ben Mendelsohn) has much more devious and sinister plans in store for Billy and soon enough she finds herself trapped in a situation that appears out of control.
Billy’s son, Bones (Ian De Caestecker), is busy doing his best to provide for the family as well. Out pinching scrap copper to sell to local recycling companies, he finds himself on the bad side of the local gangster. A “Mad Max” type of character, aptly named Bully (“Dr. Who’s” Matt Smith). Bully is not the sort of guy that you trifle with, as he’s known for cutting the lips off of people that get in his way. Bones stealing “his” (at least in his mind) copper is enough to have the thug on high alert for the desperate Bones. Bone’s neighbor, a girl named Rat (Saoirse Ronan), helps him out, as well as informs him that the town is cursed with a spell that keeps it under such dire circumstances. Setting out on a quest to rid Lost River of the curse, he and Rat have to evade Bully and try to save his mother from the circumstances she’s got herself into.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44409[/img]The film itself is pretty straight forward, but Ryan Gosling definitely has a thing for the surreal and divisive type of film making that the before mentioned directors lean towards. The only problem with his debut effort is that the movie seems to lack any focus. The stunning cinematography in a Cronenberg, or Refn film tells a tale, it pulls the viewer in a certain direction and guides them. Even if the destination isn’t always clear, or the end always wrapping up every loose end. Gosling weaves an intricate tale of narration and visual storytelling, giving us a simple tale of a rundown town on one end, and a social commentary on the other. However the different threads that weave the tapestry start to fall apart and soon enough it comes to the realization that they are going nowhere. That’s not ALWAYS a bad thing, as many time the journey is the real experience, but here it feels as if Gosling over reached and tried to bite off more than he could chew. The film is artful, and stunningly filmed, but it has a real lack of cohesion and leans drastically too “art house” for its own good.
The surreal nature of the movie has its perks though. It’s a lovely visual masterpiece in some ways, showing that Ryan has real talent behind the camera, and he pieces together some wonderful shots that really drew me in. Christina Hendricks does an amazing job as the desperate mother, and really makes you feel for her plight. Bones and Rat are a played a bit more pedestrian, but they are quite passable, with only Matt Smith really standing out as the disturbingly creepy Bully. I really felt like I needed to give this one a second watch, as many times I don’t like David Cronenberg or Nicolas Refn’s film’s on first viewing, but even after a second watch I have to say that “Lost River” is a lost cause. I understand the genre he was shooting for. That type of film that puts off most audiences and becomes instantly endearing to the a few people, but I can’t say that it jelled with me at all.
Rated R for disturbing violent images, language and some sexual content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44417[/img]“Lost River’s” 2.39:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray looks just this short of perfect. As surreal as the storytelling, the picture is filled with lusciously deep blacks, richly saturated primary colors, intermingled with earthen hues that stitched together form a tale of their own. Bright, evocative, blasts of neon colors are slathered across the screen, only to shift to a pale and bright pastel palette and back again up the gambit. The black levels are beautifully inky and leave nothing to the imagination, although I did detect a bit of crush every once in a while. Contrasts and skin tones are well done, although a little pale and drawn at times. Fine detail is simply marvelous, with the green grass blades waving in the wind, and the little pores in Christina Hendricks’ lovely face laid bare for all the world to see. It’s surreal and mesmerizing, shot by the fantastic Benoit Debie in a way that is both disturbingly creepy and softly melancholy at the same time.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=44425[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA lossless audio track doesn’t seem like much at first, but as the film progresses, it changes from a soft and demure kitten, to a roaring lion. The film’s score is just as lush and surreally intoxicating as the visuals are, changing from a gentle scene of dialog to a rambunctious and dread inspiring symphony that encompasses you from all directions. The dialog is crisp and clean, perfectly understandable at all times, while the surrounds get constant attention from the track. Sometimes it be from the deliciously complex and subtle score, and other times the little bits of ambient noise that Gosling lets through to complement the dreamlike state. LFE is rousing and boisterous, with tons of output across the board. I honestly have very little bad to say about the audio track, other than the fact that sometimes Gosling’s mixing of the score seems to be a bit clumsy, but that is rather a facet of the movie rather than the encode itself, so it bears no negativity on the score.
The fact that I had to give “Lost River” such a low score is a point of great sadness for me, as I REALLY wanted to like it. I love Gosling, and I really enjoyed “Only God Forives”. So when I found out that he was making a film in that vein I was ecstatic and a little bit giddy, only to be supremely let down when I actually watched it (and re watched it). I still think that Gosling has a future, but I think that he tried a bit too much, a bit too early in his career and ended up biting off too big a mouthful for him to effectively chew. On the plus side, the disc looks and sounds AMAZING and will certainly dazzle those of you who love pretty pictures and amazing sound. There are no extras on the disc, which is saddening, as I would have loved to have seen Goslings thoughts in a commentary on his film, but it is what is. I would give this a pass personally, unless you really love the surreal nature of the mentioned directors that Gosling took inspiration from, then I would suggest a rental.
Starring: Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Matt Smith
Directed by: Ryan Gosling
Written by: Ryan Gosling
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 95 Minutes
Own “Lost River” on Blu-ray and DVD May 5th
Buy Lost River On Blu-ray at Amazon
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