Ryan Gosling might have a well-tethered spot as one of the golden boys of Hollywood, but his directorial debut has been viciously slammed by critics, with one calling it a “crapocalypse”.
Lost River, written, produced and directed by Gosling, is set in a futuristic, decaying Detroit in a dark story about a struggling single mother (played by Christina Hendricks) who enters a bizarre world of a cabaret club with a specialty in violent, bloody acts.
In Cannes ... Ryan Gosling's directorial debut, Lost River, has drawn critics' ire. Photo: Getty Images
And critics did not hold back. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw said: “It is colossally indulgent, shapeless, often fantastically and unthinkably offensive and at all times insufferably conceited.”
Bradshaw, suggesting that “superstar success” meant that actors like Gosling get indulged rather than advised wisely, said it is a mixed bag of offering “a horrible and patently unreal nightmare world”, while wanting to make points about the real issues, such as economic decline.
Justin Chang from Variety wrote: “Had Terrence Malick and David Lynch somehow conceived an artistic love-child together, only to see it get kidnapped, strangled and repeatedly kicked in the face by Nicolas Winding Refn, the results might look and sound something like Lost River. He added that even the Gosling factor would fail to bring dollars to the box-office, not even to see how bad it is. “Train-wreck fascination will go only so far to turn this misguided passion project into an item of even remote commercial interest.”
Mark Adams from Screen Daily agreed that goodwill towards Gosling could not overcome this disaster, calling it “an over-cooked affair that lacks much needed wit and humour to go alongside its self-aware art intentions.”
And the Britain’s Daily Telegraph critic Tim Robey tweeted it was a “crapocalypse”.
Cannes so far lacks a film-maudit crapocalypse. LOST RIVER just supplied it. All Gosling's pet Lynch films, filtered through Refnvision.— Tim Robey (@trim_obey) May 20, 2014
Robey’s Telegraph colleague Robbie Collin shared the condemnation by writing: "Would anyone produce a film that was mouth-dryingly lousy enough to finally draw the heat from Grace of Monaco? Well – cometh the hour, cometh Ryan Gosling.”
He added that it was a summary of everything that Gosling might have seen Lynch, Malick , Refn and David Cronenburg, but had been merely reproduced. “Think Wikipedia essay rather than love letter,” he wrote.
Gosling's movie is one of 19 to compete in the "Un Certain Regard" category for emerging directors at the prestigious festival on the French Riviera.
The Hollywood heartthrob has been a frequent visitor to Cannes as an actor, most recently accompanying two Nicolas Winding Refn films - the bloody slasher set in Bangkok, Only God Forbids, and pulp thriller Drive.
The influence of Winding Refn - who this year is a jury member in the festival's main competition - was almost universally flagged by critics.
A young man named Bones (Iain De Caestecker), along with his mother (Hendricks) and little brother, are practically the only family left that hasn't yet cleared out of the community, visibly hit by tough times.
When their home is scheduled for demolition due to a mortgage debt, Bones strips abandoned houses for copper wiring to sell and his mother starts working at an underground fetish club where a cabaret show features women being slashed and stabbed.
While Gosling appears at first glance to be interested in themes such as attachment to home, or mortgage-lender greed, the movie is sidetracked by its surreal and sinister elements, reminiscent of David Lynch but without the psychological punch.
Neither the mysterious mute grandmother who sits and watches old home movies in the dark in full makeup and black veil, nor the discovery of a town submerged underwater, make much sense. A violent sexual encounter between the mother and her new boss feels purely gratuitous.
As if the community doesn't have enough problems already, a foul-mouthed, street-wise character named Bully (Matt Smith) rides around in his white convertible, bragging through a loudspeaker that "I own this city". Those who don't obey find their lips cut off with scissors.
Spewing blood, a severed rat head, and bikes and buildings burning in slow motion impart a nightmarish feel as heavy, brooding music substitutes for dramatic tension.
"The ultimate student film, made by industry pros," wrote Twitch Film in a tweet.
US distributor Warner Bros has not yet scheduled a release date for Lost River.
- with REUTERS, AP