Would Ryan Gosling’s ‘Lost River’ be Praised had It been Made By a Different Filmmaker?

I have yet to see Ryan Gosling‘s directorial debut Lost River, but word-of-mouth for the film, including here on the site, has been less-than-favorable. Unabashedly weird and yet very respectful to its peers, based on what I’ve seen and read, it’s not your average actor-turned-director vehicle. It’s with that in mind that a select group, including fellow filmmakers, suggest Gosling’s film would got more love had critics separated the art from the artist.

The filmmaker in question for these acquisitions of late is Terence Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty), who wrote an odd little email-themed piece for The Talkhouse about Gosling’s film. Written as if he were to give the fellow filmmaker criticism of his work before it made its premiere last year at Cannes, Nance is critical of Lost River but he makes an interesting point. He notes how if the film, as the “current cut,” were made by an unknown filmmaker, it would have the following response “FOR SURE.”

….critics would love it, the reviews would be laden with… “how did he do that” and “he’s sooo formally ambitious” because he would be allowed to make the mistakes that all first time white guy feature filmmakers are allowed to make, i.e. making the movie too long, miscasting a few roles, but overall finishing something that is producorially and conceptually ambitious. The rough cut of this movie is definitely more exciting in terms of a new directorial voice than half of the films I see at festivals.

But, because of your fame, I can already tell that critics are assuming that you are immune to making those first time feature film mistakes that WE ALL MAKE (god knows I made them). Instead, these critics and fanboys are going to come after you like you are Stanley Kubrick or something making your 8th film from beyond the grave. It’s unfair I know but I think if you make the changes above you can fool proof this movie from even that gravely unfair double standard.

There’s, of course, no way to confirm this, but Nance does make some interesting points. For instance, would this movie have gotten more love if it were, say, made by Benh Zeitlin or even Nance himself? Having attended a Q & A of An Oversimplification of Her Beauty some years ago with the filmmaker in attendance, it’s evident Nance is a well-spoken, humble and thoughtful filmmaker, and while his movie was haunting, it wasn’t bulletproof either. It was a little patchy, sporadic and filled with maybe one-or-two too many ideas, but it was a powerful film on the whole and, as such, got good marks from critics.

For better or for worse, Lost River does have people provoked by what Gosling created, and would have had been enough had he been just a regular up-and-coming filmmaker like the rest? It’s hard to tell, but I think Nance’s words do hold some merit.

The Oversimplification filmmaker is not the only filmmaker to have given Gosling’s work more consideration. About a year ago, Gosling’s working buddy Nicolas Winding Refn called Lost River “a beautiful, beautiful, great movie that will grow on people. There are images from it that still stick with me,” as Vulture reported at the time. Also very favorable of the film is Guillermo del Toro, who reportedly called the film a masterpiece at SXSW. Of course, these guys are also Gosling’s buddies too.


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