Movies and TV

Great Expectations

Ryan Gosling in the movie poster for “Drive” (2011), courtesy of Filmdistrict

Shakespeare is oft paraphrased as having said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache,” and I could not help feeling the sting of these words after seeing “Drive” this weekend. I went into the movie theater with such high expectations, after all; dozens of friends had assured me “Drive” was the best action movie in years, ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes were going strong, and there were even whisperings of Al Brooks stabbing a fork into someone’s eye. I mean, how could something with all this buzz and eating-utensil violence not be fantastic? Just to get my hopes up even more, the first ten minutes of the film actually were fantastic – there’s an exciting car chase juxtaposed with pink credits that look like they belong in a John Hughes movie, along with cool music and a jarring subversion of the audience’s character expectations that kept us on our toes. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie did not live up to its beginning or my great expectations, and here’s why…

To put it simply: “Drive” does not have enough action and story escalation to be an action movie, and it does not have enough fully developed characters to be a drama. Sure, the scenes are too long and not enough happens in them, but the most disappointing aspect of the movie to me is that the characters are as silent as cyphers, void of chemistry with each other, and unreadable. I get that this is a stylistic choice and that Ryan Gosling’s brooding silences and enigmatic stares are probably supposed to make him seem like an Everyman, but when I shell out twelve bucks to watch a movie I expect to feel on board with what the main character is doing and to have at least some inkling of the emotional reasons for why he’s doing it. I expect this even when I’m going to see a movie that’s full of explosions and alien-crocodile hybrids, let alone when seeing a quiet character drama. Instead of delivering this emotional resonance, “Drive” piles on the kind uncomfortable moments, gratuitous “driving = love” motifs, and awkward staring contests that can only pass for romantic chemistry in bad short stories. To make matters worse, there’s droning orchestration that makes the painfully long scenes feel even longer and reminds me of the droning disappointment that was “The Hours” (2002) – another movie I went into with high expectations, yet came away having seen no traces of the Michael Cunningham novel I once loved.

I hate publicly panning a movie like this, so a part of me wonders if the problem lies with me and my expectations. Would I have liked “Drive” if I’d gone in expecting something long on style and short on substance? Would “The Hours” be one of my favorite movies if I hadn’t read the book and had gone into it simply aching to hear a whole lot of Philip Glass music? If this were the case, I don’t think I would have bothered to see either of these films, though, so maybe the key is to have no expectations at all. But, I’m the kind of person who expects a whole lot out of everything – from the movies I watch to the people I love – and I don’t see how it’s possible to change this. Perhaps this means I’m doomed to a lifetime of heartache and disappointment every time I walk into a movie theater or open a birthday present, but that rare feeling of when someone/something exceeds my expectations makes any heartache worth it. I refuse to expect anything less than spectacular from a movie that has a cast and production value the likes of “Drive,” and I only hope that sometime in the near future a film of this ilk manages to blow my expectations out of the water (in a good way, perhaps with the aid of an alien-crocodile hybrid). What do you think? Do you agree with the sentiment, “Expectation is the root of all heartache,” or do you cling to high expectations for everything? Have you seen “Drive,” and do you think I should give it another shot? Leave a comment.

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  • Reply kristina@beancakes ★ October 6, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    hi jennifer ~ sorry to hear about the bad review. i hate it when that happens ~ especially when you’re paying money and making a true attempt at something. and yes, expectations are not that great of a thing in my opinion. it’s funny, i was talking about this exact topic the other day to my friend. as a person who always had high expectations of both myself as well as with others, i have trained myself to not have them as much anymore. i have found that i have often been disappointed when i had high expectations. the way i see it is always try to have a positive mind set but at the same time, do not expect. so if and when something nice does turn up ~ you can be pleasantly surprised!! hope this all made sense! anyways ~ lovely post today, very thought-provoking cote 😉 😉
    xx ~ ks

    • Reply Jennifer R. Coté October 7, 2011 at 12:45 am

      It sounds like you are so much better at managing your expectations than I am, Kristina. I really do wish I didn’t get my hopes up about things as often as I do, and I think the attitude of “Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best” is always the smartest way to approach life. I am sometimes good at adopting this attitude, but most times I fail miserably. On the flip side, I’ve recently learned that giving other people a clear idea of what they should expect of me helps with how friends and colleagues interact with me and perceive my work; so, even if I’m terrible at managing my own expectations, I can at least improve at managing what others expect of me (at least I hope so). Here’s to a lovely Friday that exceeds your expectations, Kristina! 🙂

  • Reply Leslie October 7, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I have no “Drive” to go now 🙂

    xo Leslie

    • Reply Jennifer R. Coté October 7, 2011 at 11:46 am

      Haha, thank you for starting off my morning with some punniness, Leslie. 😉 Have a wonderful Friday!

  • Reply Danielle October 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I have some expectations when going into a film, but I try my best to not let them be influenced by other people’s reviews. Unless of course, critics are hailing it “movie of the year” or “summer blockbuster”– then I would expect some sort of greatness. I know Ryan Gosling picks unusual/misfit roles (see: Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson, All Good Things, Blue Valentine), so I didn’t expect Drive, in any way, to be a Hollywood action film nor did I expect Gosling to be playing an action star.

    He actually said in an interview that the idea was that the movie should be dreamlike and then progress into a nightmare, and I guess knowing that piece of information helped me understood the movie more. I didn’t mind that we didn’t know his character’s name or his background, or why a seemingly sweet girl was mixed up with the wrong kind of guy. At the end of the movie I thought “none of that really made sense,” but isn’t that what you think what you wake up from a dream? What was that all about? Who was that person in my dream? I dunno, overall I liked the style of the movie, but I also know what it’s like to have high expectations for something and to be let down. Maybe you’ll watch it at a later time and feel differently. Who knows? 🙂

    • Reply Jennifer R. Coté October 7, 2011 at 12:15 pm

      You make such a good point about taking into consideration the kinds of roles Gosling usually chooses, Danielle. For some reason I was completely neglecting to do this when building up my expectations for this film. Maybe it’s the fact that he’d just broken with his indie trend recently by starring in “Crazy Stupid Love” or maybe it’s the fact that I always secretly hope Gosling will play slightly less enigmatic characters. This is so silly of me, though, and I’d never really thought of it until you pointed this out…A little later in his career, I think Gosling will start playing more classic leading man roles, but right now the misfit roles and indie films are building up real clout for him as an actor, so me and my expectations are a bit foolish for expecting him to steer away from something that is clearly the right choice for the sake of his career longevity. I think I’ll definitely give “Drive” another shot when it comes out on DVD, bearing in mind that it really is supposed to be a dreamy, stylized movie. I really did like the style of this flick, after all. 😉 Have a lovely Friday, Danielle, and thank you so much for your compelling comment! -Jennifer

  • Reply hautepinkpretty October 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Omg i completely agree. My husband and I watched it expecting something exciting, exhilarating, action packed and manly lol – it was so SLOW and indeed, painfully LONG… I fell asleep.

    • Reply Jennifer R. Coté October 7, 2011 at 7:43 pm

      Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry to hear you fell asleep while watching, Mrs. Haute Pink…It really is crazy how different our viewing experiences can be of movies depending upon our expectations going in, though. My hubby and I went to see “Killer Elite” last night, and even though it was a trashy action flick we had a great time because it was exactly what we were expecting. Hope your weekend lives up to your expectations! 🙂

  • Reply Ritchie October 10, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Having simultaneous high and no expectations (prepare for the worst, hope for the best) means that it’s rather hard to be pleased, you often aren’t downright displeased, and when the magic truly comes together and something happens that you really didn’t expect, it’s out of this world great.

    I enjoyed Drive for what it was: an art-house popcorn movie. I could turn off my brain and enjoy the pretty pictures without having to endure complete Hollywood blockbuster overproduced garbage. Plus I went to see it at a cute theatre in the middle of nowhere, which I wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise.

  • Reply Jennifer R. Coté October 11, 2011 at 12:24 am

    “Art-house popcorn movie” is the perfect description of “Drive,” Ritchie! I’m happy to hear you got to see it in a cool theater in the middle of nowhere, too…When and where you see a movie really becomes such an important part of the whole viewing experience. I think seeing “Drive” at an old place with velvet curtains and real butter on the popcorn would have felt pretty perfect. 🙂

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