Lost River Blu-ray Review
Critics and viewers left DRIVE thinking, “How Kubrickian…”, and I’m sure just as many will surely be thinking “How Lynchian…” after watching LOST RIVER. The movie, written and directed by Ryan Gosling, features cinematography that one could say is stolen right from the directorial notes of David Lynch. But there are touches of Nicolas Winding Refn, Dario Argento, and I’m sure plenty of other directors that are not coming to mind right now. Some will see LOST RIVER as an homage, or simple artistic thievery, or a director struggling to find his own perspective. But just like the story, that’s an answer that isn’t clear.
We’re greeted by Billy (Hendricks), a single mother of two, in the crumbling town of Lost River. The town is a mix of a fading Detroit neighborhood, the swampy outskirts of the Deep South, and bordering on the look of your latest post-apocalyptic movie. Billy has a teenage son, Bones (Caestecker), and an even younger son that’s not important in the movie or important enough for me to mention his name. To help the family, Bones goes from one dilapidated eyesore to another finding scrap to sell. He has a run in with another person who scraps metal by the name of Bully (Smith). Although Bully rolls through the area like some kind of garbage king, thinking he owns the empty structures.
Also in the mix is a neighbor that Bones takes a liking to, Rat (Saoirse Ronan), along with Rat’s decrepit grandmother. And then there are the creeps that inhabit Billy’s job. Billy’s job is at a macabre burlesque show in Lost River’s underground. It’s odd that such a suburban wasteland has a neon lit underground for some the inhabitants with cash to spare. The dancers in this mysterious burlesque world perform violent and grotesque acts, such as stabbings and face peelings, all fake of course. It’s just one of many things in the movie that are visually entertaining, but add nothing.
LOST RIVER is a visual spectacle that lacks substance and a plot. Sure we have all these characters moving around, but it seems like they go from one set piece to another, simply inhabiting the space so that it can be captured in someone else’s artistic vision. The story itself seems to focus on this idea of staying or leaving one’s home. As much as Billy would like to leave, she’s attached to the home she’s raised her boys in and Bones has the tools to leave, but instead wants to stay behind and fix up what he already has. If there’s a message here, it’s not clear enough. And if there’s a theme here, Gosling can’t convey it.
If I was to piece together what this movie is attempting to tell, it’s about the aging America that is now lost in the past and falling apart into a pile of paint chips and rotted wood. But that idea is masked by an unnecessary direction into the burlesque theater, a bully simply named Bully, and eye popping style without any importance. While there’s plenty of scene chewing and gorgeous cinematography, it falls on deaf ears and blind eyes when there’s nothing for us to be interested in.
It feels like multiple student films were strung together by the thinnest of stories in LOST RIVER. At times it attempts to offend, and fails, and it times it attempts to enlighten, but fails even more. It’s easy to give praise to something so different and it’s certainly brave for Gosling to attempt something that can be hated so easily, but I can’t quite bring myself to recommend something that ignores a lot of storytelling components. Gosling definitely has an eye and taste as a director, but next time he should accept a script instead of attempting to write his own
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2:39:1) The movie was filmed on 35 mm, but that aged quality of filmmaking is probably lost on this crisp presentation. The sea of vibrant colors and flames are the highlights of this blu-ray quality movie.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) With the soundtrack being the second key behind attempting to tell the story, it comes through as clear as bell, sometimes overpowering everything else on purpose. It is a perfect soundtrack in the same vein of Refn.