dear Ryan Gosling…

Art & Culture
Dear Ryan Gosling,
The question is out there – in your mind as well as ours? Are you the real thing, or just passing eye candy who will be forgotten in five years?
 I have always inclined to the view that you are a god actor who women happen to lust after, but the lusting can be a problem if that dictates the roles you choose, and if you are encouraged in a tendency to look brooding and remote, rather than an interesting well developed character. The last two films with Nicolas Winding Refn seem to have emphasised brooding over subtlety.
You’ve already had a long career for a man just over 30. FIve years in television from the age of 15, and then you were seen as The Next Big Thing after your appearance in The Believer, in which you played a Jewish guy who became a passionately anti-Semitic neo-Nazi. It is the same kind of blistering performance that catapulted Edward Norton and Russell Crowe into stardom (each playing a violent skin head punk), but theirs may not be an example you want to follow.
The next signpost was The Notebook  a film of surpassing mushiness, which didn’t do much business at the cinema but turned out to be video/dvd sleeper. You play a young man from the wrong side of the tracks back in the Depression who loves and loses rich young Rachel McAdams; but the stinger is that we see them together again in old age. Hankies alert.
Another two years pass, and along comes Half Nelson, still not a big crow pleaser, but a critics’ favourite with enough clout to get you an Oscar nomination. Pretty good for a 26 year old. You’re a teacher in a rough inner school who has a bad drug habit, but is still a good teacher. It’s very enjoyable film, which highlights your charm, unreliability and passion for life.
Still the indie films are what you’re offered, or what you chose. Lars And The Real Girl  showed a different Gosling; this time you’re a few sandwiches short of a picnic, a sweet simple guy who buys himself a rubber blow up woman to keep him company. I’m not sure it amounts anything more than an endearing good hearted comedy/drama, but it passes the time pleasantly.
Drive  was your first film with Refn, a wannabe 70s violent crime thriller that promised a lot more than it delivered. You were cool, and tough and happy to hit people over the head with a blunt instrument, as well as mooning over Carey Mulligan, but it was hard to escape the feeling that watching you was the main point of the film.

Then you made your brief foray into more mainstream movies: Crazy Stupid Love  is a multi-narrative comedy with a good cast and some interesting plot ideas, but it doesn’t quite add up to anything. You are a charming Don Juan whose tin heart is won by Emma Stone. In fact, it’s much the same role you play in Gangster Squad as a hardboiled cop whose heart is won by – that’s right – Emma Stone. And while The Ides of March  has a terrific cast, and is ostensibly about an interesting political issue, it feels like a superficial film which doesn’t do you any special favours, apart from keeping your face on the map.

And then there is the other pair of films you’ve made with the same director – Derek Cianfrance; Blue Valentine, and  The Place Beyond The Pines.  In the first you and Michelle Williams have an entire film to show us how you first got together and how and why you’re falling apart. It’s riveting viewing, but I didn’t believe a word of it. Nor was I any more convinced by the Pines movie, which bears a worrying resemblance to Drive, as you once again roar about too fast, being tough and cool.

So, yes my problem is that you’re becoming a caricature of yourself, and at the age of 32 that seems a little bit early for you.Only God Forgives sounds like a nasty piece of work heavily marinated in pretentiousness, and with a Terrence Malick film to follow, it’s hard to see where you can usefully go from here. You’ve got the looks, the presence and the charm, but that’s not enough if you don’t have the films that challenge and stretch you. Being a babe magnet will only take you so far in life, and if you want to make indie films with directors wanting to take risks, then find the right movie, because you haven’t managed to do so yet. The fact that you have yet to star in a bona die hit should worry you. It’s a sign that something is missing.

Time to take some time off, reconsider what it is you’re good at and where you can push your boundaries, then take the plunge.

Letters to the Stars is a sporadic series on the ever-great Front Row Films website.