Get in. Get out. Get away.
Wednesday, March 27th
Film starts at 8:00pm
at Lady Jay’s: 633 Grand St, between Manhattan & Leonard, Bklyn, NY 11211
Free popcorn, Juke Box Meccanica, $2 Bingo for Prizes. PRIZES!
Don’t forget to visit the concession stand! This week’s menu by Happy Homesteader and a steal at only $8 a plate. Food’s on by 7:30, so come hungry and come early!!
By A. O. SCOTT for The NY Times, Published: September 15, 2011
A long time ago, as a young filmmaker besotted with the hard-boiled pleasures of classic Hollywood, Jean-Luc Godard claimed that all anyone needed to make a film was a girl and a gun. In his new movie, “Drive,” Nicolas Winding Refn, in thrall to a later Hollywood tradition, tests out a slightly different formula. In this case all you need is a guy and a car.
Carey Mulligan as the girl who lives down the hall from the guy, and the sole innocent in a movie filled with film noir baddies.
In the brilliant opening sequence the formula seems to work beautifully. The car is, of all things, a late-model silver Chevy Impala, the kind of generic, functional ride you might rent at the airport on a business trip. The guy is Ryan Gosling — his character has no known proper name, and is variously referred to as “the driver,” “the kid” and “him” — and to watch him steer through Los Angeles at night is to watch a virtuoso at work. Behind the wheel of a getaway car after an uninteresting, irrelevant and almost botched robbery, the driver glides past obstacles and shakes off pursuers, slowing down as often as he accelerates and maintaining a steady pulse rate even as the soundtrack winds up the tension to heart attack levels.
The virtuosity on display is also the director’s, of course, and that, for better and for worse, is pretty much the point of “Drive,” the coolest movie around and therefore the latest proof that cool is never cool enough. Mr. Winding Refn is a Danish-born director (“Bronson,” “Valhalla Rising,” the “Pusher” trilogy), some of whose earlier films have inspired ardent, almost cultish devotion in cinephile circles.
His own love of movies can hardly be doubted, and there’s nothing wrong with his taste. He likes the stripped-down highway movies of the 1960s and ’70s — the kind that Quentin Tarantino celebrated in “Death Proof” — and also the atmospheric masculine melancholy associated with Michael Mann. You might also catch a hint of Paul Schrader’s “American Gigolo” and, with respect to the story rather than to the visual style, a whole bunch of Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone westerns.
Mr. Gosling’s driver, like Mr. Eastwood’s Man With No Name, is a solitary figure with no background or connections but with skills that defy explanation. In addition to his getaway gigs, he drives stunt cars for movies — the source of a witty trompe l’oeil sequence early in the film — and might have a future on the racing circuit.
At least that’s what his friend and sometime employer Shannon (Bryan Cranston) thinks. He has a plan to persuade a couple of local gangsters (Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks) to invest in a car that will be both Shannon’s and the driver’s ticket out of their marginal, sun-baked, film noir existence.
You don’t need me to tell you that the plan goes astray and that before too long the girl and the gun come into play, in more or less that order. The girl’s name is Irene, she is played by Carey Mulligan, and she lives with her young son down the hall from the driver. A neighborly flirtation is disrupted by the return from prison of Irene’s husband, Standard (Oscar Isaac), who gets pulled back into his old life of crime in such a way as to bring out the guns and require from the driver a few gruesomely violent acts of chivalry.
There is a bag full of money, a crosshatching of vendettas and betrayals, and an ambience of crepuscular Southern California anomie. There is also one scene of pure automotive pleasure, when the driver takes Irene and her son on a cruise along the kind of concrete culvert that has often been used for car chases in the past. But this is not “The Big Lebowski,” which took such delight in its status as pastiche that it ended up in a zone of wild originality and real feeling. “Drive” is somber, slick and earnest, and also a prisoner of its own emptiness, substituting moods for emotions and borrowed style for real audacity.
This is not to say that the movie is bad — as I have suggested, the skill and polish are hard to dispute — but rather that it is, for all its bravado, timid and conventional. In the hands of great filmmakers (like Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Godard, to stick with relevant examples) genre can be a bridge between familiar narrative structures and new insights about how people interact and behave. Those are precisely what “Drive” is missing, in spite of some intriguingly nuanced performances.
The softness of Mr. Gosling’s face and his curiously high-pitched, nasal voice make him an unusually sweet-seeming avenger, even when he is stomping bad guys into bloody pulp. And Ms. Mulligan’s whispery diction and kewpie-doll features have a similarly disarming effect. Irene seems like much too nice a person to be mixed up in such nasty business. Not that she’s really mixed up in it. Her innocence is axiomatic and part of the reason the driver goes to such messianic lengths to protect her.
To make the movie work on its own constricted terms, you need — beyond this girl and this guy, and the cars and the weapons — a colorful supporting cast. And this is what saves “Drive” from arch tedium: Mr. Cranston’s wheezing, anxious loser; Christina Hendricks’s seething, taciturn underworld professional; and above all Mr. Brooks’s diabolically nebbishy incarnation of corruption and venality.
In his self-authored comic roles, Mr. Brooks often exudes a passive-aggressive hostility, a latent capacity for violence held in check by neurosis and cowardice. He lets you assume the same in “Drive” until the moment he stabs someone in the eye with a fork. It’s a shocking and oddly glorious moment — something a lot of us, without quite knowing it or being able to explain just why, have been waiting 30 years to see. – NY Times