The Trinity: Ryan Gosling
With “Blade Runner 2049” about to hit theaters, and me coincidentally just diving into the filmography of Ryan Gosling, it’s time to resuscitate The Trinity series. For those not familiar, I pick my three favorite films from a performer’s filmography and give my thoughts. It’s fun. We have fun here. So, without further ado, let’s get into the #Gosfather. I’m trying to make that a thing.
The Big Short
Based on the book by Michael Lewis, director Adam McKay found a way to make a film about the financial meltdown of the late 2000s… funny? Entertaining? Both? That’s a damn cinematic achievement if I’ve ever seen one. It’s done through fourth-wall breaks, which only work because of tremendous performances by a handful of incredible actors: That includes Gosling, who only receives third billing (fairly, I think).
This isn’t Gosling’s highest rated movie on Letterboxd (“La La Land,” which you’re not going to find on this list [you can see my full list here]), and he’s not the lead, but he’s excruciatingly Gosling-y. At least, he plays one chord of his persona very consistently, and very well. It’s that smug, smirking, yes-you’re-going-to-come-home-with-me-tonight Gosling that is going to keep him working forever. It might not be his favorite Gosling (see: “The Place Beyond the Pines”, “Drive”, etc.), but it’s his most successful, no doubt.
This one isn’t for the faint of heart. Paired up with Michelle Williams, Gosling takes on a romance so bitter it makes “La La Land” look like a veritable Disney romance. This is not “The Notebook” (not that there’s anything wrong with that film – just know what you’re signing up for). Perhaps that’s why it strikes such a chord, though.
It does an excellent job of exploring a relationship that starts with promise before breaking it down in excruciating fashion, all without assigning blame. It would have been so easy to turn this into a one-sided affair, but Derek Cianfrance never gives into the bait. That’s impressive, and he’s helped by a stellar performance from a chain-smoking Gosling. There was never any doubt Williams would knock it out of the park; she’s been doing this without proper recognition forever.
The Nice Guys
Did you know Gosling is funny? It might not come as shocking, but he really got a chance to show off what he can do in Shane Black’s throwback flick. Russell Crowe is at his best opposite Gosling as a rough-and-tumble hired gun, while Gosling’s wimpy private eye is just off-brand enough to be played for laughs. The odd couple chemistry absolutely works, and at the time of release it was a very necessary departure for Gosling.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy “Drive” as much as the next guy, but at some point, Gosling needed to play a character that didn’t strap on leather gloves for a living. He’s going to be back as a moody, cool dude in “Blade Runner 2049,” but getting a chance to show his range in “The Nice Guys” was welcomed.