Saturday, 20 April 2013

Alternate Best Actor 2001: Ryan Gosling in The Believer

Ryan Gosling did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, for portraying Daniel "Danny" Balintin The Believer.

The Believer is a somewhat interesting although the writing and particularly the direction is never that spectacular, and to be sure they are both overshadowed by the lead performance in the film.

Ryan Gosling is the film as the skin head neo Nazi who also happens to be Jewish although this is not something he would tell his thick headed prejudiced friends nor his rich affluent fellow fascists who wish for Fascism to be taken seriously as an ideology by the public. Gosling stands in the middle of many things and has to work around this and brings out each aspect of his character within his performance. Danny is basically a series of contradictions and Golsing needs to portray each one of these naturally without it seeming forced, and each of the contradictions has to actually form who Danny is exactly.

The first of these contradictions is the presentation of Danny within the realm of the fascists and the Nazi sympathizers. On one hand Danny is a charismatic sort who seems to think many things through which speaks about. Gosling portraying Danny as charismatic and articulate in his ability to discuss his beliefs no matter how extreme they may be. On the other hand though Danny can seem just a thuggish brute who resorts to violence first with no more than angry thought. Gosling again is just a believable as the brute with a great intensity in his performance portraying the seething anger in the man that pushes him to commit these attacks.

The contradictions only continue as the conviction of this man also comes into play. Again on one side Gosling is absolutely forceful in his depiction of the level of conviction that Danny does have in his individual theories. They may be utter bunk but Gosling does show Danny as a man who fiercely believes in them, as well as has the ability to tell them in a way that would make at least some not to be instantly repulsed by his ideas. On the other side of Danny though there is a weakness in him and a lack of conviction in his beliefs as he reflects about his past in the Jewish tradition or when he is confronted by the very real ends which would come about if his ideas came to fruition.

Nothing technically makes sense about this self hating man yet Gosling allows this man to his exist through his portrayal which matches whatever side of the man comes out. He is able to achieve the inconsistencies of the man without Danny seeming impossible or even improbable. He is able to find Danny on every level and within the contradiction that is Danny creates a fascinating character. He can be perfectly reprehensible yet so easy to listen to in his reprehensibility due to Gosling presence which makes it possible to believe that he would be both accepted and at the same time rejected by both the high brow fascists and the down and dirty ones.

 Gosling is able to be the leader and just a punk who doesn't how to deal with his own problems other than with violence. Importantly though Gosling portrays largely that the violence that manifests itself comes from his own self hatred. Gosling is able to get find the complexities the self hatred that comes about in many forms whether it is the basic anger that is fueled from being the very thing he hates, or a strange sadness from some sort of respect he still holds for his childhood despite his apparent rejection of it. Importantly Gosling shows that this is never something simple and is fairly moving in portraying it as something that truly leaves nothing but a confused mess in the end.

The film never reaches the heights it could given Gosling's work, and honestly it lessens the lasting impression Gosling's performance can leave. The story just never becomes that powerful therefore Gosling can never can quite go the extra distance with Danny as a character. I do not want to sound negative at all though as I do not have a single complaint in regards to Ryan Gosling's portrayal. Gosling gives a terrific performance that really succeeds brilliantly despite the challenges presented. He is able to compile Danny into one believable man despite the contradictions of him, and in fact uses the contradictions to enable him to be a singularly unique character who never is quite one way when it comes to any matter.  


Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this but his work in Drive and (to a lesser extent) The Ides of March really impressed me. I think he's a remarkable actor.
Has anyone seen The Place Beyond The Pines?

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I just saw Pines today. Gosling's portion of the movie was the weakest. He basically rehashed his performance from Drive. Cooper on the other hand gave his career best. Dane Dehaan was exceptional as well.