In the aftermath of its Tuesday screening, Critics beat a fast path to Twitter to spread vitriol, disbelief and, in a few rare instances, praise for a film that is partially set in an underwater city. It’s a trippy tale that owes debts to David Lynch and Gosling’s “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn and reportedly premiered to boos and a dollop of applause.
The film stars Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes and Matt Smith and sounds as if it may permanently expunge Gosling’s “Mickey Mouse Club” legacy.
Variety’s Justin Chang excoriated the film, comparing it to a train-wreck, while writing, “Had Terrence Malick and David Lynch somehow conceived an artistic love-child together, only to see it get kidnapped, strangled and repeatedly kicked in the face by Nicolas Winding Refn, the results might look and sound something like ‘Lost River,’ a risible slab of Detroit gothic that marks an altogether inauspicious writing-directing debut for Ryan Gosling.”
Chang’s Variety cohort Scott Foundas also found the film to be a yawn, tweeting, “Gosling’s LOST RIVER a first-rate folie de grandeur. Echoes of Argento, Korine, Lynch, Malick in a tedious allegory of Detroit as ghost town.”
Grantland’s Wesley Morris was left reaching for scatological metaphors to describe the execrable results of Gosling’s slide behind the camera, tweeting, “If a $200 haircut and $900 shades were given lots of money to defecate on Detroit, the result would be Ryan Gosling’s directing debut.”
Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian branded the film a “conceited clunker,” tweeting, “Just think. If Ryan Gosling hadn’t been such a star actor, he’d never have been allowed to direct *stares into space, screams* #cannes2014.” He went on to write that his review would post later — a moment that Team Gosling no doubt looks forward to with bated breath.
Mark Adams of Screen Daily was gentler, writing, “It may well be strong on evocative imagery and a vibrant sense of danger and moodiness but Ryan Gosling’s much-hyped directorial debut turns out to be an over-cooked affair that lacks a much needed wit and humour to go alongside its self-aware art intentions.”
Freelance critic Jordan Hoffman picked up Gosling’s allusions to a certain Danish enfant terrible, tweeting, “NW Refn taught his padawan Ryan Gosling well. If you like that sort of thing you’ll like LOST RIVER. Personally, I’m mixed. #cannes2014.”
HitFix’s Drew McWeeny applauded Gosling for taking risks in his depiction of urban decay and economic inequality, but said the film sinks under its own ambition.
“It is a first film and it shows,” he wrote. “Gosling doesn’t stage scenes so much as he drops people into these environments, letting things linger in hopes that some profundity will emerge.”
BuzzFeed’s Alison Willmore implied the film was something of an arty mess, but handed out brownie points for trying, tweeting, “Yeah, LOST RIVER’s inchoate and indulgent, but at least Ryan Gosling’s interested in visuals and cribbing from edgier filmmakers. #cannes”
The Toronto Star’s Peter Howell enjoyed elements of the film that left others fuming, tweeting, “LOST RIVER: Unholy Motors. Gosling’s Motown fantasy blitzes eye & mind. Carax/Lynch honored, audience baffled, but that’s OK. #Cannes2014.”
Gosling is no stranger to getting the cold shoulder on the Croisette. “Only God Forgives,” the blood-drenched crime thriller he worked on with Refn, was critically drubbed when it screened at the festival last year. Gosling wasn’t in attendance, however, as he was enmeshed in production on “The Lost River.”
No such luck this year.