I’m all about the Gosling. I loved the first ten minutes of Drive, which made $11M at the box office this weekend for its brand of arthouse adrenaline. Cool. Steve McQueen. Silent with speed. A stoic stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway man. Hard as nails, soft as Velveeta. I get it. And I wanted to love it.
And then enter Carey Mulligan as Irene, exsqueeze me, a Denny’s waitress with a kid. And a husband in prison. Living in a squat downtown motel suitable for Charles Bukowski. No offense to Mulligan, but she’s so miscast –so dewy not dingy. It’s a reflection of the filmmakers’ enormous blind spot that they think no one will notice, or care.
Irene’s blond highlights and bob alone would cost $500. And what’s she doing with that thug Standard (Oscar Isaac) for a husband? He’s in prison and runs with a gang. She says they met at a party, and I had to wonder where was the party? Oxbridge? When Gosling’s Driver takes her and her kid for a spin on the L.A. River, she reacts with a level of joy that borders on the autistic spectrum, as if she’s an alien experiencing her first day in a human body.
Perhaps it only goes back to what the actress Patricia Arquette said to me before her career revival on Medium: men cast women on the basis of fuckability. Mulligan is new meat.
At least that’s an explanation. Because, for me, once Mulligan as swoony love object appears on the scene, the toughster movie deflates like a flat tire. She’s the elephant in the room, Dumbo’s mom goes slumming.
At least, in Drive, with Albert Brooks playing against type as a Hollywood producer turned murderous mobster, the inversion works. Nemo’s Dad always had a dark, moody, anti-social side that makes Brooks’ sudden violence seem cartoony but vaguely plausible.
Mulligan has no such plausibility. She’s perfectly cast for The Great Gatsby remake, but here she comes across as Driving Miss Daisy Buchanan.