Verdict: unbearably rubbish.
I watched this film recently against my better judgement, on a recommendation. The words “redemption” and “character-driven”, and “pleasantly surprised” were used, I believe.
So why was this film rubbish? For starters, the storyline went on way too long, and made no sense. So Ryan Gosling’s a stunt rider who suddenly becomes really obsessed with his son and starts robbing banks and ends up nearly beating a guy to death. This guy is mentally unhinged, a really nasty piece of work. If he was fat and ugly then he would have no sympathy from the audience at all – but oh, it’s okay to treat other people like that, because he’s good-looking and can ride a motorbike.
And the whole robbing banks storyline – that was so needless and pointless. The excuse for this terrible storyline seems to be that Ryan Gosling needs to provide for his son’s future, yet the son seems to be doing just fine without him – he has a mum and a dad and a house. It’s not like he’s living in abject poverty. There’s no reason for Ryan to quit his job and start robbing banks in the first place. And even if he did genuinely think that he needed to give his son some money, why didn’t he go and join an oil rig or something, and send money home to his family that way? Why did he instantly think about robbing banks? So stupid. How am I meant to respect a character who makes such a poor, lazy decision?
And then Eva Mendes jumping into bed with him – why did she do that? She’s with the other guy. What the heck is her character doing? I had zero respect for her too. She served no purpose other than eye candy. And she can’t act either. Neither can Ryan Gosling, who has all the emotional range of a broom. The scene where he cried in the church – he did that without moving a muscle. No emotion at all. Impressive. Like watching Spock cry.
Things did get interesting when Bradley Cooper (who can actually act) showed up and shot Ryan Gosling – it would have been good to explore just the storyline of the psychological consequences and the strain it put on his marriage and why he and his wife split up… but no, the writers chose to ditch this storyline and focus on a couple of bratty kids.
Okay, Bradley Cooper’s son is an idiot, but oh, the coincidence of transferring schools and ending up at the exact same high school as Ryan Gosling’s son (who looks quite dark and Hispanic as a baby, but completely white as a teenager), and sitting down at exactly the same table as him. Surely if Bradley Cooper was really upset about shooting Ryan Gosling, he would have followed the progress of the son, and known what high school he went to?
Anyway. So Ryan Gosling’s son finds out about his dad’s identity, but then the jump to making him into some kind of saint seems a little quick. Rash. And forced. Why is the son so quick to turn on his mum, and declare vengeance on Bradley Cooper? Didn’t he read the bit about his dad taking people hostage? Is this kid so thick that he can’t make a proper evaluation of the information? And his mum – why doesn’t Eva Mendes sit down and have a proper chat with him, instead of just looking upset all the time?
And so then he takes Bradley Cooper out into the woods and Bradley Cooper starts crying. His tears seem completely out of the blue, unrealistic, even a little embarrassing. The film directors can’t just jump forward 15 years in time and expect the audience to stay with them – there was no real evidence that Bradley Cooper was still repentant and harbouring guilt after all this time. It would have been better for the directors to take us through those 15 years, for us to walk alongside Bradey Cooper, seeing how the shooting affected him, his marriage, his relationship with his own kid, maybe have him keeping tabs on Ryan Gosling’s son… but no, the film makers went for the lazy option and just hit the fast forward button – and then expect the audience to be moved by Bradley Cooper crying.
And so then Bradley Cooper apologies, and then what, Ryan Gosling’s son just accepts his apology? He doesn’t want to ask anything else? He just runs off? What a wasted opportunity.
And then what, the snotty brat decides to head west on a motorbike? SERIOUSLY?? Is this meant to be coming a full circle or something?, cause this wasn’t, it’s just stupid. Suddenly we’re meant to believe that a kid who has never touched a motorbike or shown any inclination towards them suddenly wants to ride off into the sunset? Completely disregarding his parents who have brought him up and love him? That is really bratty behaviour, it’s not cool, it’s not clever, it’s just stupid.
Maybe all the characters had really low IQs, and that’s why they all behaved in such cliched ways. It was like they were a herd of cattle, coralled into a storyline without the ability to show any sort of intelligent decision making along the way.
The whole problem with this film was that nothing was followed up or fleshed out or explored. It just seemed really sketchy, as if deep sorrowful gazes and people crying are meant to be a substitute for good dialogue and exposition. I know I’ve gone on about the audience not being spoon fed, but there is room for an actual story to be told in the old-fashioned way, and not just relying on your cast to try and sell the story for you. It was like the film makers thought, “Oh cool we’ve got some A list actors, they’ll carry the film along, and hopefully no one will realise that the actual storyline behind this is pretty rubbish and full of plot holes. We’ll distract them with pretty faces and a pretentious soundtrack.”
Anyway. So bad. A film pretending to be deep (note: just because deep emotions are being shown on screen, this doesn’t necessarily make it a deep film) and meaningful and “hip” (because the actors mumble their lines and speak over each other), but actually it was pretty rubbish. The only intelligent thing about it was the song by Bon Iver at the end.
And even more depressingly, the majority of reviews seem to think this film is good. It isn’t. It’s like when you eat 30p Tesco value chocolate your whole life. You may think this is quality chocolate, but that’s because you haven’t eaten Cadbury’s or Lindor chocolate. In the same vein, anyone who thinks this film is good has obviously been living off a diet of equally poor films such as ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Avatar’.
Here is my suggestion – if you think this film is “an epic example of a morality tale” as one reviewer put it, then read ‘Lord Jim’ by Joseph Conrad or watch ‘Munich’ or ‘The Kite Runner’. All examples of intelligent morality tales that will make this film pale into comparison and expose it for the Value Version that it is.