Cannes: Ryan Gosling Faces A Critical Firing Squad After Directing Debut; Steve Carell Talks Oscar

There was such interest in the first screening for Ryan Gosling‘s directorial debut, Lost River, in the Un Certain RegardCannes2014_badge__140417160328-150x150 (1) section of the Cannes Film Festival that people began lining up Tuesday afternoon much earlier than usual and the Debussy theater was full 15 minutes before showtime for one of the most anticipated films — and directorial debuts — of this year’s lineup in any section. Running at top speed down the Croisette after a Foxcatcher lunch at the Carlton (see below), I raced over there but could only find a fold-out seat in the front row. Worse than that, an equally tardy — and loudly complaining — Un Certain Regard juror almost got tossed out by an overzealous usher until she was saved by two more savvy ushers as the lights were going down and given a seat on the other side of the theater where someone (another juror?) was saving a single spot for her.

"Lost River" Premiere - The 67th Annual Cannes Film FestivalBut after seeing the film, I don’t think this juror would have had much to worry about in missing this thing even if she were thrown out. I have more than a Certain Regard for Gosling’s talent and smart sensibilities as an actor. He’s easily one of the best and biggest risk takers of his generation. The filmography speaks for itself, including his Oscar-nominated turn in Half-Nelson, the inventive Lars And The Real Girl, Blue Valentine, (the wildly underrated) The Place Beyond The Pines and on and on. As a director, however — well, I guess I still admire him as an actor. Here he seems to be just imitating stuff he’s seen on the screen, not in life.

Lost River is an odd hybrid of Beasts Of The Southern Wild and the Gosling-starring dud Only God Forgives that was in the main competition last year from director Nicolas Winding Refn (now a juror this year but not in Un Certain Regard), along with about 30 other movies you’ve seen and discarded. Refn, by the way, told press he planned to go to Tuesday night’s premiere of his friend and star’s movie and was “sure he would like it”. Many major critics had another thought and were harsh on the film, which seems to ape styles from Tarantino to, yes, Refn (who also directed Gosling in the superior Drive) to Eli Roth. But in reality, the whole film, while impressively full of cinematic language, just doesn’t seem to know ryan-gosling-lost-river-directingwhat to do with all its moving parts. And it is lit so darkly for 90% of the time that it’s hard to tell what’s happening. Benoit Debie, who is French cinema’s enfant terrible Gaspar Noe’s cinematographer, carries over the worst habits of that miserable auteur (sorry, Noe fans). An overly stylized sound design doesn’t help matters. On the plus side are great atmospheric settings and a terrific choice of music throughout, which really tries to bring the film up. Original title was the much better How To Catch A Monster since Lost River is just too generic and is reminiscent of such film titles as Mystic River, Wild River, The River, River Wild, The River’s Edge, Frozen River, River Of No Return and several other River movies, all better movies than this one.

"Lost River" Premiere - The 67th Annual Cannes Film FestivalThis is the first film this year where I heard boos, but to be fair there were some cheers mixed in. One wag called it “choos”. Another journalist kindly said of Gosling’s debut, “sometimes it’s good to get things out of your system”. But Lost River also had its fans among the critic set, so not all is lost. But Gosling, if he reads this stuff on Twitter and various websites, just might be wondering How To Catch A Break right about now. With Gosling only behind the camera and no name box office draws, you have to wonder what Warner Bros (which is releasing stateside) will do with this (though there’s a Godzilla-like head seen in the movie, for nice corporate synergy). It is times like these the studio has to wish it had kept Warner Independent. Any attempt to do an Oscar campaign would be fruitless, and it doesn’t appear the studio will have the critics on their side. Nevertheless I am betting that Gosling, with a better script, might have real potential as a director, so on to the next one for this talented artist.

Before the Lost River debut, I made it to the Foxcatcher lunch and got to talk it up with director Bennett Miller, star Steve Carell, and producer Jon Kilik, who is having a hell of a Cannes between the ecstatic reception for this film and the big splash for the next Hunger Games sequel Mockingjay Part 1, which had a huge party at a Russian mansion in Cap d’Antibes on Saturday. Miller told me what a “mind blowing” experience coming to Cannes for the first time has been. He’s clearly on a high due to reaction to"Foxcatcher" Premiere - The 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival the November 14 Sony Pictures Classics release. It’s almost a year to the day from their original announced premiere at the 2013 AFI Fest, before Miller asked to have more time to shape the film. He told me it has worked out for the best. This film will be on the circuit all season long. And then there is the terrific Carell, who could empty forests with all the reams of Oscar buzz his performance has generated among writers at the fest — and that includes me.

SPC still is determining which category, but I think it should be Best Actor. He seems to be the center of the film. I asked Carell about all things Oscar, and he cringed. “I guess I am going to have to come up with some sort of standard statement,” he said. “But I think it’s just premature to talk about it, and the Oscars are a slippery slope.” Of course it is understandable Carell would be cautious: He sat at the Emmys and managed to lose six times for his brilliant lead performance in The Office. He also had high praise for Vanessa Redgrave, who has the briefest of screen time as his mother but is so powerful she could pull a supporting nomination herself — and maybe break the record for the shortest screen time in the category. Nevertheless, their (somewhat improvised) scene together is what screen acting is all about.

  1. I just think of the filmmaker Gosling bumped out of the festival by taking up the space. Someone’s career might have been launched because they were accepted at Cannes, but instead, the festival chose a film by a movie star that would stir up some controversy. Shame on Cannes.

  2. “He’s easily one of the best and biggest risk takers of his generation.”

    Yes he’s the next Marlon Brando, Carl Sagan, David Simon, and William Shakespeare. A genius. An intellect unmatched. Such risk. Such boldness. Every performance a masterpiece. His farts cure cancer. His smiles give the blind sight.

  3. Ryan hasn’t been in a decent film in years, or one that made any money. How is he still relevant?

    1. I just don’t get why he is a star. He was in the Notebook, and lots of women seem to get him confused with the character he played. I get that lots of people think he is gorgeous, but as a straight man I just don’t get it with him. He is too pretty imo.

      But what was the last successful project he made? Crazy Stupid Love? And he was, at best, the 2nd most responsible. Carrell, then Stone, and maybe Moore, had more to do with that film’s success than he did.

      For cripe’s sake. He was in the New Micky Mouse Club. How much of an artiste does anyone really think he is?

      1. Patrick,

        So being on a kids’ show as a child 20 years ago means someone is never allowed to be considered “an artiste”? There was a lot of uninformed stuff in your comment, but that last paragraph was my favorite part because it made no sense whatsoever.


  5. My thoughts exactly. All of these fests are now consumed by someone famous trying to direct rather than looking for the next great filmmaker.

  6. I, for one, have never forgiven the Emmy’s for not awarding an Emmy to Steve Carell for his portrayal of Michael in The Office. He created such a brilliant character week in and week out. Such a terrible omission, one that shows how superficial and political the Emmy’s are.

    1. All award shows are very political . Where are the Emmy Awards for Jon Hamm , Michael C. Hall , & Hugh Laurie ? All of these performances will stand the test of time .

      P.S. Pete , I love your writing , but please stop giving these rich celebs a free pass when they fail artistically . Ryan Gosling should never get behind the camera again .

  7. OK, I’ll be the one to say it: If Steve Carrell can’t win an Emmy in six tries, how does he think he’s going to win an Oscar? And for Best Actor??????

    1. Who said that he thought he could? He was asked a question, and it made him uncomfortable. And the studio will push whatever they can.

    1. And by working with the same directors playing the same role in the same fashion over and over again?

  8. Many saw this flop coming…GOSLING not spending enough time working with writers, writing himself; not enough time working with directors outside of the acting.

    I’m never amazed or stunned when HWD insiders — usually actors and producers — who think and believe it’s so goddamn easy to dirtect, to simply flop on their dir. debut.

    This failure is NOT ABOUT “NOT TAKING RISKS”.
    it’s really about not practicing enough; not putting
    enough time into and personally sacrificing for the
    craft of directing.

    I’m sure if GOSLING hadn’t surrounded himself with
    so many “yes” men/women — he’d have seen problems in the script stage; script rewriting stage; storyboard stage, shooting and finally post stages…long before he submitted it to…where?


    Maybe he should stick to acting and screw around with screenwriting for the fuck of it.

    In HWD…anybody can write a script, right?

  9. Carell should get back to what people enjoy seeing him do – rated R comedy. His best performance by a long stretch was in 40 Year Old Virgin. This dramatic material he’s doing is boring and does not play to his talents.

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