The first day back is always a tough one; someone’s hung their coat on your peg, you’ve forgotten where you’re supposed to sit and your handwriting looks like a spider has attempted a world record breaking string of stag dos before taking a shortcut home across your page.
So it’s a good job I didn’t have to endure any of that (although my handwriting has always suggested I’d make a darn good doctor) as although I’ve been away from writing, those observant among you will have noticed me still on the radio for most of the summer. To summarise; Captain America, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Super 8 -thumbs up; Final Destination 5 (!) and Cars 2 -thumbs down.
Packing my lunch into my satchel and polishing an apple I began the week with fervour, knowing I would have to get my thoughts in more of an order than usual where cinema was concerned. Proper work continues to get in the way of being a fully fledged film geek, but I make a good fist of it nevertheless, David Fincher’s version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo inadvertently providing entertainment whether it be with the version of Immigrant Song on the new trailer blowing my mind (if you can tell me who it is/where I can find a copy I’d be chuffed) or the Muppets spoof of said trailer The Piggy With The Froggy Tattoo keeping me chuckling at my radio desk (on my break, boss -honest).
First up this week though was Drive, Nicholas Winding Refn winning the best director prize at this year’s Canne Film Festival for this neat noire thriller about a movie stunt driver who also moonlights as a wheelman and gets himself in trouble trying to protect his Carey Mulligan shaped neighbour. Ryan Gosling steps into the leading man shoes we all knew he had in the back of the wardrobe to play the mono-syllabic no named ‘Driver’. It really works, the long pauses giving greater power to the moments when he does decide to push some air through his vocal chords. Although there are scenes where Mulligan and Gosling just look at each other for so long you do wonder if they’ve forgotten their lines or have simply gotten lost in each others good looks.
The 80s influences, strong character ahem, sorry driven story, the stellar soundtrack and the explosive outbursts of brief but bloody violence make this an absolute wonder. Hundreds of films have provided similar storylines and scenarios but few with this level of class. It’s the equivalent of experiencing fine Italian dining for the first time after a lifetime of Pizza Hut.
The following day I was all revved up sorry again to see Warrior and experience the bone crunching, spleen rupturing drama of mixed martial arts, but it has to wait unfortunately due to having a running time to rival the Rugby World Cup. Instead I settled for Crazy, Stupid Love. Ryan Gosling again, this time as a lounge lizard (although he is young and rather good at it so does that make him a lizard? Probably more of a shark) Jacob who befriends sad sack Steve Carell struggling to regain a hold on life when his wife asks for a divorce, all the while coping with the potential enormity of an end to his single days after encountering a game-changing redhead.
Here he is the opposite of Driver, sharply dressed and talking fast. He does an excellent job as part of a great cast. Steve Carell gets to reach a little further than usual with his regular suburban square and I’ve written before of Emma Stone’s excellence and sparkle which she continues to do here.
It won’t win many awards for alarming originality and even fewer for realism but it is consistently funny and charming, providing equal amounts of rom and com in a genre which all too often turns out turgid products bereft of either.
The best parts are mostly concerned with Jacob teaching Cal to regain his manhood and chat up women. Stone, Julianne Moore, Marissa Tomei and Kevin Bacon are a little underused and the multiple story threads make it at least 20 minutes too long, but it could be, dare I say it? The most male friendly rom-com in many a year.