Ed here: Last night Al Collins and I had the kind of phone talk we used to have many years ago. A lot of fun. Then today I was leaving Half-Price Books and I saw Al in the parking lot. He and Barb were here from Muscatine (fifty minutes away) to do some shopping and have a meal and go to a movie. We talked for maybe ten, fifteen minutes (Al holding a heavy box of books all the time--I'm into torture) and one of the topics was the movie "Drive." Here's a piece from Salon noting the the disconnect between the critics who loved it and the audiences who hate it. (BTW A couple readers asked me about the advice Al gave me thirtuy-some years ago when I wrote (and finished) my first novel. 1-write straight on through without pause to the end. Worry about polishing ti after you've got an entire first draft. 2-Treat every chapter like a short story. Still the most useful writing advice I've ever had.)
The "Drive" backlash: Too violent, too arty or both?
The Ryan Gosling thriller has great reviews but dreadful word of mouth. Salon writers discuss what went wrong
BY THOMAS ROGERS AND ANDREW O'HEHIR
Ryan Gosling in "Drive"
Thomas Rogers, Salon editor: So there seems to be an audience backlash against "Drive," a movie that you and a lot of other critics have been very fond of. It had decent opening weekend numbers (about $11 million, good for No. 3 on the charts), but the problem with the movie seems to be word of mouth: Basically, people hate it. It might have something to do with the fact that it's being advertised (at least on New York subway platforms) very ambiguously, with lots of glamorous photos of Ryan Gosling and Christina Hendricks, in a way that says very little about what the movie is about. People show up expecting a glossy sexy movie about a man driving a car, when in reality it's basically a hyper-violent European art-house movie that offers little in the way of car chases or romance. That's one way of thinking about it, but I honestly think the bigger problem is that this movie is too gut-churningly violent.
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon film critic: I suspect it's really a combination of both of those things. It's both too elliptical and too violent, and it may have been positioned incorrectly in the marketplace. This is a movie tailor-made for contemporary American critics, who are steeped simultaneously in the culture of Eurocentric art-house movies and in Hollywood B cinema of the '70s and '80s, all the stuff that inspired Quentin Tarantino. Although I have argued forcefully that "Drive" is not "Pulp Fiction," for a whole bunch of reasons, there's no denying that it belongs to a similar tradition. But the thing is, the general public really doesn't share that peculiar combination of rarefied and populist taste, you might say. And "Drive" may seem quite mysterious to many people. It isn't really much of an action film, even though there is considerable violence. The hero and the girl never get it on, and barely even kiss. It may be the most chaste and sexless R-rated film in history. It has, let's just say, a highly indeterminate conclusion, with the fate of the protagonist very uncertain.
T.R.: Based on my own experiences, and the experiences of other people I've spoken to who've seen the film, I do think the biggest word-of-mouth problem for the film is the many, many horrible things that happen to people's throats, hands, eyes and heads in it. The way I describe it to people, and the way other people have described it to me, is that "Drive" is a very good movie that I never, ever want to see again. I should disclose that I have a very low tolerance for both fork-related violence and eye-related violence, and that this movie happens to combine both of those things in a very unpleasant way at one point. But I saw the movie in a sold-out screening in New York, sitting next to two 19-year-old women who, based on their chatter, went to see it because it had Ryan Gosling in it. By the time the first person's head exploded, 45 minutes in, they just started traumatically screaming, which echoed my own internal experience. I guess the question becomes, though, what makes this movie's violence more unpalatable to audiences than, for example, the violence in the "Saw" movies, which tend to do fairly well at the box office?
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Judy and I saw DRIVE this afternoon. It's a fine movie, but it's indeed gut-wrenchingly violent. And arty.
Fine movie. Not Sallis' book, but it makes it on it's own.
I can't imagine that people who read the books that most of us who look at your blog do would complain about the violence, Ed.
Pop Culture movie critics might, but I don't think many of them are big fans of hardboiled crime fiction to begin with. Probably 19 year old women don't read Richard Stark or Lawrence Block much either, ya think?.
This movie is so beautifully lit and photographed that you could watch it with the sound off. Good script, nice performances, a firm directorial hand. There's a stillness to it that is very attractive.
I don't get the "arty" tag. Is it because the director is Dutch? To me it seems he wanted to translate Sallis' spareness of story and dialogue to the screen. Go watch it and revel in that thing that getting lost in a widescreen film with surround sound can do for you.
I usually agree with O'Hehir and Rogers both by the way, I just think they probably don't read enough crime fiction!
Awful movie. Laughable characterization, idiot plot, the kind of long pauses in dialogue that makes the Riff Trax boys yell, "Line!" It steals from much better films -- THE KILLERS (Don Siegel version), THE DRIVER (Walter Hill). The opening anti-chase is effective, but after that the film becomes a self-conscious, pretentious source of irritation.
A few examples: the desperate garage owner (gimpy Bryan Cranston, who the moment you see him you know will die) says he makes $30,000 a year. Yet he has a successful garage, books the driver into expensive stunt work on bigtime Hollywood movies, and on the side sets up the driver for getaway work on heists. The driver opens the film with an incredibly articulate set of orders for his client, then immediately becomes a monosyllabic zombie who can barely manage, "Okay." Albert Brooks (whose line readings vary not a whit from his standard comic style) goes to the pizza joint (!) where Ron Pearlman is the apparent sole other member of the LA mob, and complains that a botched job has put him in serious danger of exposure...then grabs a kitchen knife and messily slays the other witness right there in the restaurant, getting himself splattered with blood. Ryan Gosling, with the charisma of a fetus, causes the death of the dimwit gal nextdoor, she gets mad, then they get on an elevator and neck while a hitman (whose presence Gosling has noted) waits patiently to rub them out, and perhaps to enjoy the arty shifts in lighting. Then Gosling stops kissing the gal who's mad at him to stomp the hitman's head into mush, to apparently demonstrate how much cares for the litte lady. This is shit, ladies and gentlemen. Pure unadulterated shit, and it's no wonder audiences hate it.
"The charisma of a fetus." Love it!
Methinks Mr. Collins just described every young actor in Hollywood today.
I should have said "causes the death of the dimwit girl nextdoor's husband" -- I guess stupidity is catching.
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