Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Interrupting Cow.

Right, I'm going to try and race through a few reviews here to catch up on the backlog I have in front of me (we're talking about seven films here: this one, Borat, The Hurt Locker, Children of Men, Goodfellas, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Me And You And Everyone We Know, Inglourious Basterds,Sweet Sixteen and Shattered Glass.) So they may not be quite so detailed or eloquent. I'm just going to get down some impressions. Of course, they each still deserve their own post, so I shall give them that dignity.

I've also been updating where I'm at on my list of films to watch, which I published ages ago. I deleted A History Of Violence as I remember I watched it a while ago, and it doesn't rate on my list of films to watch again (like a number of the titles I did leave on, such as Amores Perros, Hunger, City Of God and Memento.) So I think that list now totals 58 rather than the elsewhere quoted (possibly in my head) 59.

Moving right along.

My only real previous exposure to Ryan Gosling, as far as I can tell, was in The Notebook. That was a film that I didn't really fancy seeing, and then my mother (I must have been visiting for the weekend or something, because there's no way I could have still been living at home when it was out - interesting sidenote to no one, not even me) rented the DVD. I think I was doing something else in the room, probably on the computer, just barely paying attention to it when it started, and by the end of it I was glued to my seat, probably crying (I know I wasn't actually crying, because I remember all films I shed real, human tears in, but it would have been close), enthralled by the film. I really, really like The Notebook. And I loved both Gosling and Rachel McAdams in it.

But other than The Notebook, I don't think I've ever seen anything else with Gosling in it, up until the other day (last week, let's be honest.) I'd heard a lot about Half Nelson, mostly regarding Gosling's Oscar-nominated turn in the lead role. And it is a strong performance. He plays a drug-addicted teacher who enters into a friendship with an insightful young student (and never is there the hint of it becoming sexual or predatory, I never felt that, which is something to definitely give writer/director Ryan Fleck and co-writer Anna Boden credit for), basically stumbling through life trying to work out what the fuck is going on and never wanting the party to look like it has died, even though he knows that it is well and truly over and the only person he is fooling is himself.

It's strong, because it's not overly self-pitying. He plays his character (Dan Dunne, for the record) simply and elegantly, never reaching for the histrionics, simply showing us this man who is completely, completely lost, despite the fact that he is intelligent, he can be inspiring, and he is, most of the time, a nice guy.

There are strong supporting performances (Shareeka Epps and Anthony Mackie stand out) and the film ultimately works well. I'd hesitate to call it a performance vehicle, but it does veer in that direction - Gosling stands out in an otherwise fine film. Where I think it stands apart from this is that his performance doesn't overpower the film. I didn't come out of Half Nelson thinking 'yeah, the film was all right but hot damn! that performance was amazing' as I have in other films. I came out thinking that the film was good and Gosling's performance fitted it like a glove. And that is where the true glory of his accomplishment comes out. He didn't deserve to win it, but he did definitely deserve to be in contention.

The film itself? 3.5 stars. I want to see the Fleck/Boden follow-up Sugar now.

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