Monday, October 24, 2011

On Finally Having Seen Drive

So I finally saw it. And I loved it. Drive not only entertained me but also gave me little pieces that I’m still working to assemble, Lego-style, into something that will help me understand it better. I’d imagine that many film majors will be turning in end-of-the-semester term papers on Drive, both because it’s the kind of movie that movie nuts will get more out of but also because it leaves so much unsaid. Gosling’s laconic protagonist so often just stands there, staring, not showing any emotion, and I’d wager that I’m not the only one who projected a lot onto him as I tried to make sense of his actions.

I’m declining to review Drive now, because I think I’d need to see it again to say anything meaningful about it, but I’ll offer this much: a few questions that I have rolling around in my head. Maybe you can suggest an answer.
  1. First up, the subject of my previous post on the movie: the strangeness of casting Carey Mulligan in the role of Irene, the jailbird’s wife. I still find her out-of-place, but having finally seen Mulligan act in a movie, I understand her appeal a bit more. But let me ask this: Does it surprise you at all that the character was originally written as a Latina?
  2. How believable was it that Irene’s husband didn’t remember her age or that she was only seventeen when they met? He’s clearly supposed to be a subpar husband, but he also seems like the kind of guy who at least would have relished the fact that his girl was underage when he first laid eyes (and other things) on her.
  3. Why the hell was the jailbird character named Standard Gabriel? Who is named Standard? Did the name serve any purpose other than to set up Irene’s cheeky little joke about his name, “Where’s the deluxe version?”
  4. Do you have a hard time imagining a seventeen-year-old Irene having had the poise to deliver a one-liner like that?
  5. Did you love the scene in the strip club dressing room as much as I did? The way two of the strippers skitter away when the violence starts but the rest just sit there, topless and unfazed? The way one subtly raised her eyebrow when Gosling’s character mentioned the missing million dollars?
  6. Why did Christina Hendricks take this role? It’s a small one, and she gave some oomph to the few scenes she had, but she’s a fairly in-demand actress now. (She’s appeared in five movies released this year alone.) I like Hendricks, but I walked away feeling that poor, doomed Blanche was fairly unimportant in the grander scheme of the movie. Am I wrong?
  7. Did you notice Russ Tamblyn in the movie? Because I didn’t. He played “Doc.” Who the fuck was Doc?
  8. Did the film make you think of Brick, what with the crime caper unfolding in a setting that was modern but veiled with definite vintage aesthetic?
  9. Did the film make you think of Mulholland Drive? Specifically Drive’s second have and the “Diane Selwyn” portion of Mulholland Drive? Something in the colors, the soundtracks, the use of Los Angeles as a hostile landscape made even more dangerous by criminals and their shadowy motives? Or did it make you think more of Lost Highway?
  10. Why did Gosling’s character put on the latex mask before he went after Nino? Was it only because this marked his first planned attack on someone, as opposed to him just reacting with violence to a dangerous situation?
  11. Do you think Gosling decided to play his character as slightly autistic — socially withdrawn, seemingly unable to grasp typical social protocols, but able to weave through traffic with the superhuman precision of a musical savant playing the piano?
  12. Did you identify with Gosling’s character? Were we supposed to? Are we actually supposed to identify with Irene?
  13. How long did it take you to realize that Gosling’s character had no name?
  14. Are you as amused as I am at the thought of people wandering into this movie and expecting, like, some high-octane car chase movie or maybe Gosling in dreamy Notebook mode and then being pissed as hell that they got graphic violence, a sad ending, and lingering questions? Can I possibly take to much joy in that idiot who is suing because the trailer somehow led her to expect a different movie than the one she saw?
Answer whatever strikes you as compelling. I am genuinely interested to hear what other people thought about this one.


  1. It was only a good movie to me. I loved the pacing and solitude of the film, obvious nod to Michael Mann films and television shows. It was a bit too stylized, playing with a lot of 80's nostalgia but not a peroid film, in places though there was too much of a music video feel(especially the first date (ride)).

    The dressing room scene was great. The expressions were priceless. Also the killing of Bryan Cranston's character was especially done well and unexpected (not that he dies but by the method and the kindness shown). Speaking of, Albert Brooks looks fucking weird.

    It was one of the better movies of the year, but I don't think it's going to leave any lasting impressions.

  2. I loved it, too. I thought it was a fantastic story about identities and power, from the transformation scene at the end (when the driver dons the mask) to the beautifully done fake-out of introducing the driver as a criminal, then showing him as a cop, then revealing that he's a stunt man. The story could only happen in L.A.

    As for Tamblyn: When the robbery goes south and the driver gets wounded, he turns to Shannon for help back at the garage. Once there, an unnamed doctor (Doc) patches up his arm.

  3. GreyHair: Yeah, it's saying a lot when you star in a movie alongside Ron Perlman and people still walk away thinking "Damn, what a weird-looking dude."

    Dan: Very true, this being an LA-specific movie. Now there's a Pajiba list: movies in which the city setting is such a character that the story simply wouldn't work in any other city. I'd be particularly interested to see which non-LA, non-NYC suggestions people could think of.