…because something needs to be said.
It’s a decent movie. I was led to believe that, based on public opinion, I would suddenly learn how to fly or that I would have the mysteries of the universe explained to me. That didn’t happen, but that’s not to say that it’s a bad movie. The one thing I loved about the movie was the way it was shot. I was especially impressed with the use of natural light, which looked to good it made me wonder if anyone had ever used it to this effect before hand…they have, I just can’t remember. Anyway, let me get into what, I feel, are the two most important questions about the movie, and how I think they could effect what you end up thinking about the flick as a whole.
(It’s five minutes, stupid person who made this jpg!)
1. Was that first heist successful? This is crucial to how you view the character. From the opening lines of the movie, we’re to assume he’s good at what he does, and when we watch him evade the police, yeah, he looks like he knows what he’s doing. And then he pulls into the Staples Center, and walks away from the car. The Driver avoids arrest…but do the crooks? No, right? Here’s why I ask: If those crooks don’t get out of the car and get away, we never see the Driver successful as a getaway driver (the only other driving he does is the stunt for the movie, which goes well, and driving the race car around the track). Think about it; the only other heist he was involved in, in the movie, was the one at the pawn shop, and that goes south in a hurry. What this means is that the character isn’t who we assume he is, based on everything we’re given. The only thing we can safely say about him is, as a getaway driver, Gosling’s character has a driver’s license and can, by law, drive a car. There is too much assumption given that he’s good at what he does, and unless we see him as a successful getaway driver, we go into that second heist assuming he’s going to fail. Which means that, as the hero, our expectations about him are low. The only “heroic” thing he does is he puts Benicio to bed (by “heroic” I mean the only thing he does that endears us to him). We want him to be a hero…we expect him to be the hero…but how can we do that when he’s, essentially, a failure?
2. Does the Driver live in the end? First off, why did he kill Nico with that mask on? No explanation whatsoever. But anyway, I got this tweet in reply to the above one, and this might be the most important question that the movie needs to answer:
Is Drive film noir? Or is it pulp? Because the answer not only depends on your interpretation of the ending, but it also changes the perception of the hero throughout the entire film.
Folks usually attribute a pretty similar definition for them, but here’s the one I use: noir has deperate characters doing desperate things and usually, they have a downbeat, ironic ending. Drive has that, no question: The Driver gets stabbed in the gut pretty severely, he kills Bernie the gangster, and drives away, leaving Irene and Benicio behind. He doesn’t get the girl, he doesn’t get the money, and, if my understanding of anatomy is correct, he probably dies right around the time he runs out of gas. That’s noir as all get out! But…is it pulp?
Pulp fiction is pretty broad, and while it can have an ending like the one I mention above, it all depends, again, on your perception of the Driver. If he’s a successful getaway driver, if he’s the hero of the piece, and if he lives, then the movie is a pulp. Pulp usually has larger than life characters and can be just as lurid as noir, but in the end, the hero shows the villain that “crime doesn’t pay.” I have this print out of a Lester Dent essay near my desk that I use as a reference for when I’m writing. In it, Dent says:
FOURTH 1500 WORDS
1–Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.
2–Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)
3–The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.
4–The mysteries remaining–one big one held over to this point will help grip interest–are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes
the situation in hand.
5–Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the “Treasure” be a dud, etc.)
6–The snapper, the punch line to end it.
HAS: The SUSPENSE held out to the last line?
The MENACE held out to the last?
Everything been explained?
It all happen logically?
Is the Punch Line enough to leave the reader with that WARM FEELING?
Did God kill the villain? Or the hero?
If we take Dent’s path, and consider Drive a pulp, then we have to assume the Driver lives. He certainly sacrifices himself for the greater good, he proved that crime doesn’t pay (he didn’t even take any of the money…or did he?), and he drives off into the sunset…literally. So, which one is it? Pulp or noir? Does he live or does he die?
That’s the problem with open endings. I appreciate that the filmmaker wants to include the film viewer in on the storytelling, and say, “Well, what do you think happens?” but the reality is this; if this movie is a noir, it kind of fails (not entirely…just in the sense of the two questions I asked here). If it’s a pulp, then it makes sense. Then we can go back and say, “Oh, the Driver purposely failed in those heists because, subconsciously, he never wanted to be a getaway driver; he wanted to race cars and have a family.” I would like to think it’s a pulp, and it might even make me like the movie more…
But I don’t buy it. I now own a Blu-Ray that I’ll probably not watch again for months. Crud.
What do you think?