Sunday, June 03, 2012

Digging Out From Under the Netflix Backlog

Oh well, I'm only [almost] two months behind.

We had a mini-Ryan Gosling festival in April, With "Fracture" and "Crazy, Stupid Love."  The former is a court drama/psychological thriller directed by Gregory Hoblit, a director who got his start in TV ("Hill Street Blues," "NYPD Blue") and can nearly always be counted on to spin an entertaining tale.  On that score "Fracture" comes through in spades, with Anthony Hopkins (teetering on the brink of hamming it up, but never quite crossing the line) playing a brilliant structural engineer with strong sociopathic tendencies who shoots his wife after discovering that she's having an affair with a police detective.  His character, Ted Crawford, confesses to the crime at the scene, and Gosling's character, Willy Beachum, is brought in to prosecute the seemingly open and shut case.  Beachum is on his way to bigger and better things, but learns quickly enough that Crawford is playing him, and realizes that he is now enmeshed in a game of wits which, if lost, may cost him his career.  Gosling does well in a role that requires him to play second fiddle to the charismatic Hopkins, and the movie bogs down only when it strains near the end to manipulate the plot in ways that strain credulity, in order to allow the "good guy" to win. 

Gosling is not the main character in "Crazy, Stupid Love" (that honor goes to Steve Carell), but he steals just about every scene he's in as Jacob, who on the spectrum of young, good looking guys falls somewhere between Lothario and lounge-lizard.  When Carell's wife (Julianne Moore) stuns him with her request for a divorce, he stumbles his way through his life, landing in a pick-up spot bar where he sticks out like a sore thumb.  Although he quite obviously still pines for his wife and that life, with Gosling's help he manages to remake himself into something that, frankly, he isn't really suited for

This is one of those movies with sub-plots layered on top of sub-plots - it's sort of like a long episode of "Love, American Style" with all the stories taking place at once.  So you've got a storyline involving Emma Stone, you've got another involving Carell's son and the babysitter he loves, who of course has a crush on Carell, and then you've got glorified extras like Kevin Bacon and Marisa Tomei, both of whom are largely wasted.  The funniest moments make this worth seeing, and it's probably worth seeing just to see Gosling's star continue to ascend, but overall it's a bit less than the sum of its parts.

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