What a curiously and disappointingly unengaging movie this is.
It manages to create two great acting vehicles for Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams and contrive to leave you uninvolved and remarkably unsympathetic despite performances that have been talked about as Oscar contenders.
The fact that the movie has ended up with but a single nomination for Williams says a lot, because, frankly, it’s not that good. Incidentally I agree that Williams puts in a better shift than Gosling, albeit both are fine pieces of work.
Gosling’s problems start with very poor make up work. He ages maybe 20 years in a film that spans 5 or 6.
But the real problem is with the film’s structure and, I suppose, the script. One is simply not convinced by the very simple plot vehicle that a couple insanely in love lose every iota of desire or affection in a very short period of time. Well, Williams’ character does. Gosling seemingly degenerates from charming cheeky boy into alcoholism almost overnight and Williams’ disdain for him is frighteningly sudden.
And it’s down to the script. It’s just too black and white. There is no transition. The film’s construction is based on flashback and whilst this works on paper, it doesn’t fare well on screen because it’s just too flakey.
Not only is Gosling’s character a bit unbelievable but the casting of Williams’ ex makes differentiation between the two (an important plot device) really difficult. (exactly the same problem blights The Departed). It’s a bit of a mess.
On the plus side, Williams’ performance really is very good and deserving of a nomination that will not convert because it has Portman’s name on old Oscar, and I liked the cinematography a lot. It works on a really tight depth of field, very tight cropping and a hand held feel which is designed to make the film feel intensely intimate, and at times it does, particularly in the sex scenes.
But, overall it’s too messy. It’s sort of sloppy and despite being the kind of movie the producers, I’m sure, expected us to shed a tear at; it didn’t even come close.