Fresh off a triumphant performance in Barbie as Ken – one of the great comedy-villain performances of recent years, Ryan Gosling has also had pop music success with I’m Just Ken being a top 20 hit in the UK. Gosling is one of the most interesting and talented actors working today who is immensely talented and ridiculously handsome (so handsome that casting him as a toy example of physical perfection was believable). Gosling’s breakout role in the overwhelming romantic/problematic movie The Notebook could have seen him follow a path of predictable rom-coms but instead Gosling has had a varied career, playing many unusual and unsympathetic roles.
Lars and the Real Girl
A slightly de-handsomed Gosling plays Lars, a lonely but pleasant enough man, who through a series of traumas and distant relationships ends up with various social disorders. After buying a “realistic” sex doll Lars begins to act like she is a real person, much to the shock of his brother and others. The family doctor comes to the conclusion that this behaviour is caused by a huge underlying psychological problem that needs to be addressed and advises his family, and the whole town, to act like Bianca – the doll – is a real person. Understandably some people do have a problem with this but relatively quickly the small town adjusts and treats Bianca as a real person, in order to help Lars. This is a surprisingly heartfelt film, especially when the concept could have led to some awful comedy, with Lars’ genuine love for Bianca being very touching.
Gosling plays the unnamed Driver, a very quiet, good-natured, loner whose only interest seems to be in driving cars – whether that is just out driving, being a stunt driver in films, or the getaway driver for crimes. His life changes upon meeting his neighbour Irene and her young son who he quickly begins to help out and get close to. It’s not long before things spiral out of control – Irene’s husband gets out of prison and in order to escape a debt from gangsters the Driver helps him in a heist. The film has truly unforgettable car chases and action scenes and Gosling is perfect as the usually quiet and mild-mannered man who explodes into action and violence when necessary. Most of the time emotion and feeling seem to have been drained from the Driver, especially in his expressions, but Gosling still manages to portray the complex motivations and feelings behind the character.
Blade Runner 2049
Gosling starred in this sequel that was decades in the making, playing the blade runner Kay, who is also a replicant himself, although in 2049 replicants are allowed to exist on Earth. In playing a Blade Runner who is a replicant, Gosling risks having comparisons made to the brilliant performances of both Harrison Ford, as Deckard, and Rutger Hauer as Batty, who played a Blade Runner and replicant respectively. But Gosling pulls this off masterly. Kay is another Gosling who shows little emotion on the surface but can still break your heart, his conflicted existence as a Blade Runner replicant is clearly difficult for him. When he returns to his apartment his AI holographic girlfriend, Joi offers him solace. As Gosling gets drawn into a potentially world-changing plot and questioning everything in his life he continues to be brilliant.
The Big Short
There are few characters in cinema who are as immediately unlikeable and unpleasant as Jared Vennett, who in character seems to want those around him to hate him and will break the fourth wall simply to antagonise the audience. In a film full of characters trying to make money off the looming financial crash Vennett manages to clearly rise to the top of the people you hate. While virtually everyone else is shocked and appalled by the corruption and incompetence which is going to cause a global recession Vennett seems to take pleasure in displaying the awfulness of these people supposedly running the world economy. The only thing that comes close to a redeeming feature of Vennett is his honesty in his awfulness.
It is my hope that with Barbie Ryan Gosling goes on to do what Kevin Kline did in A Fish Called Wanda, give a sensational comic performance and get an Oscar for it, but even if he doesn’t Gosling has done more than enough to confirm him as one of the most talented actors of his generation.
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