Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut of Lost River is not the worst movie you could watch. There are definitely worse ways to spend your time. The movie is, at times, visually stunning enough to give you at least five minutes out of ninety that make you maybe feel a thing. The trouble is that the other 85 minutes are a jumbled mess. The story here is pretty straightforward: Billy (Christina Hendricks) is raising her two boys, one a toddler and the other a teenager named Bones (Agents of SHIELD’s Iain De Caestecker). When Billy falls behind on her mortgage, she’s begins work at a crazy underground sex-shockfest Grand Guignol-type club. Meanwhile, Bones is in trouble with the local gang lord (Matt Smith) for stripping houses in the rubbly derelict wasteland that is their town. (Oh, and he’s maybe also looking for the lost city of Atlantis? Or something?) Gosling (who also wrote the script) takes this simple plot and does everything he can to make it as difficult as possible to understand. Between the unwavering mumbling of every character and Gosling’s style of seeming to shoot in dreamy fragments of ideas rather than linear story-progressing shots, there is an illusion of depth here.
So sure, there are worse ways to spend 90 minutes. But if you’re at all interested in seeing this movie, trust me, there are better ways, too.
1. If you’re looking for style, watch Blue Velvet. Or Tree of Life. Or basically anything else. If you’ve heard anything about Lost River (besides that it is terrible), you’ve probably heard that it’s clearly heavily influenced by a number of directors: David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Nicolas Winding Refn … Gosling was ambitious in modeling his directorial debut after well-established directors who have spent years to decades mastering their strong visual styles, and that ambition did not pay off. At best, the movie is a weak impression of those influences. Put on Twin Peaks and the Drive soundtrack and you’ll have a much more rewarding experience.
2. If you just love Ryan Gosling, watch a Ryan Gosling movie. Watch The Place Beyond the Pines. That’ll give you the Big Ideas and striking visuals Lost River wanted for itself, with Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Ben Mendelsohn too.
3. If you want to see a dude aggressively sexy-dance at you, watch Ex Machina. Ben Mendelsohn is fantastic as the creepy bank manager/sex club owner, but Oscar Isaac’s aggressive sexy dance is better and not surrounded by nonsense.
4. If you want to see Christina Hendricks do sex stuff, I don’t know… watch Mad Men. Or Firefly. Or use your imagination or something. The twisted sex club plot line is probably the most interesting of the movie, and also the most horrific. But possibly save for one crazy scene which shows Hendricks casually taking her face off, none of it is worth sifting through the heavy handed themes and symbolism that come with it.
5. If you saw that clip of Matt Smith riding around in a car throne yelling at people to look at his muscles and want to see more of that, just watch that clip again. Smith’s psychopathic Bully is arguably the best part of this movie, but everything you want to see is right here:
Are there other reasons why you want to see this movie? Don’t. Do pretty much literally anything else instead.