Drive (FilmDistrict, R)

He may want those things (quietly, desperately) but they’re not meant for him.

I watch a lot of movies. And yet, even for me, it’s rare to come upon a film scene so evocative that it imparts chills. Such a scene, though, crosses the screen early on in Drive. Driver (Ryan Gosling) has taken his next door neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos) on a tour of the not-so-flowing Los Angeles River and the hidden bucolic greenery at the far end of the area. The sun shines perfect, complexion-warming light through the car windows and envelops the three in a halo of unfettered joy.
Everything is wonderful, and we feel so happy for Driver. For the first time since he met Irene and her son, he smiles a true, sure-footed smile. But then, something changes. When Irene and Driver stare longingly at each other, or when Benicio giggles wildly, we realize that this is not Driver’s life to live. He cannot have Irene, or any happy, relaxed relationships. He may want those things (quietly, desperately) but they’re not meant for him. And really, he knows it.
Drive tells the story of a part-time mechanic, part-time movie stuntman who also happens to spend his nights as a part-time getaway driver for L.A. lowlifes. Driver’s affection for Irene and her son gets the better of him, and he agrees to pull a job with her ex-con husband Standard (Oscar Isaac), who’s recently returned from prison. When the heist goes awry, however, it’s not long before we see that Driver can do a lot more than drive a fast car.
If you’re looking for a good, old-fashioned, ’80s crime-soaked drama, Drive is it. Director Nicolas Winding Refn shows us a Los Angeles that glitters with crime and desperation at night, only to fade into a haze of anger, regret, and comeuppance during the day. The action is fast, the violence is visceral, and here, just like in life, it only takes one bad decision to ruin your whole future.
One of the best parts about Drive is the sweet, brief relationship between Driver and Irene. The filmmakers could have easily given us one of those steamy, sexual liaisons that are usually de rigueur in movies like this, but they instead presented something more natural for the characters.
Irene feels a bit trapped with well-meaning but wrong-headed Standard, while Driver clearly keeps his distance from people in general so his life stays as uncomplicated as possible. The resulting romance is a lot more like innocent, tentative first love than anything else. And that feels right for two people who long for things to be different while being stuck with their pasts.
There’s an interesting cast of supporting actors in Drive that help make the world real. From an oily Albert Brooks and a wolfish Ron Perlman as two shady businessmen, to Bryan Cranston as Driver’s only longtime friend (and a man who’s managed to make some bad decisions that haven’t killed him yet), everyone fills their part to the hilt. You never doubt that these people were around before we came in, and will continue to be once we leave. Provided, of course, they survive.
Having said all that, I don’t know if Drive would have worked this well without Gosling. He’s truly perfect as a tough guy who’s tried to distance himself from his past, but then makes the wrong choice for the right reason and has to revert to his old self to get out alive.
I’d be surprised if Gosling utters more than 200 words in the first 30 minutes or so of the movie, but his eyes say it all: He’s trying not to get attached to Irene and Benicio, but he’s been detached for so long in his hard-won life, he just can’t help himself. In a performance that’s cool but never cold, Gosling is what really makes Drive go. | Adrienne Jones

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply