Lost River (Warner Home Video streaming, Blu-ray, and DVD ) is the kind of movie where a flaming bicycle rolls through a scene for no reason. It’s the kind of movie that features a girl named Rat who has a rat named Nick. It’s the kind of movie where a bank manager casually quotes Ol’ Dirty Bastard when discussing foreclosure. It is the kind of movie where the TV only shows kooky old TV shows. It is the kind of movie that never saw a lens filter or color process it didn’t like. It is, in short, go-for-broke ridiculous, and not in an entertaining way. It is also the writing and directing debut of one Ryan Thomas Gosling, and more likely to kill lady boners for the heartthrob actor than 30 pounds of cookie dough around his middle.
In a magical-realist ruin-porn wilderness that resembles the worst of Detroit (where the movie was shot), Billy (Christina Hendricks) lives in her tumble-down wooden-frame castle with her two sons, the oldest of whom, played by Iain de Caestecker, rips copper pipe out of old buildings for a meager living. But the bank—in the person of Ben Mendelsohn’s sinister loan officer—wants their hovel. And a neighborhood baddie, played by a nearly unrecognizable Matt “Doctor Who” Smith, wants all the copper for himself. Complications ensue, including a hoarder-style Miss Havisham-alike, a nightclub devoted to gory Grand Guignol skits, and a sunken city at the end of a lost highway.
Lost River isn’t without its diverting or effective bits. The increasingly indispensable Mendelsohn, for one, wrests something like a cohesive performance from all the folderol, and the gruesome nightclub acts surprise anew every time. But Gosling’s cliché-ridden fable isn’t as clever as he clearly it thinks it is, and his directing style, such as it is, brings to mind an undigested stew of Terrence Malick aspiration and David Lynch lite, with perhaps a touch of recent Gosling collaborator Nicolas Winding Refn.
It’s not a total artistic disaster, just irredeemably silly and juvenile. Making fun of it seems no more sporting than making fun of some middle-schooler’s creative-writing manuscript. Except this is a grown man who’s worked in Hollywood since he was barely pubescent. Just baffling.
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