Genre: Drama
Premise: A single mother and her family struggle to make ends meet in a dying town that finds itself descending into madness.
About: Lost River is the writing-directing debut of actor Ryan Gosling. Gosling put together a stellar cast that included Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, and Eva Mendes. The script played a couple festivals but the consensus seemed to be that while ambitious, the movie is a miss. It came out this weekend and currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 31%. The script (formerly titled, “How to Catch a Monster”) first came to my attention when it finished extremely high on The Hit List, a list of the best specs of the year. However, it was conspicuously absent from The Black List, which was released a few days later. Was the script great? Was it terrible? Who knew? Well, it was time I knew. And hence, today’s review!
Writer: Ryan Gosling
Details: 101 pages (April 19, 2012 draft)

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Most people would argue that Ryan Gosling has it all. He’s handsome. He’s a movie star. He’s one of the few big actors in Hollywood who hasn’t sold out. Oh, let’s not forget he’s married to one of the most beautiful women in show business. So when the man decides, “Hey, I’m going to write and direct a movie cause why the hell not,” the response was probably akin to the way the DJ world embraced Paris Hilton when she decided to become a DJ.

And they have a point. I mean let’s pretend we’re there to watch Ryan casting his film. What if a screenwriter showed up and said, “I’d like to play a major role in your movie.” We’ll even give this writer the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say he has the perfect look for the part. So Ryan responds, “Well, have you ever acted before?” “No,” he says, “But I watch a lot of movies. And I write a lot of scripts, so I understand character.”

Do you think Ryan would cast him? I’m guessing not. My gut tells me he’s going with a much more experienced actor. Why? Because he knows how hard acting is. Because, after putting all that time and effort into becoming the great actor that he is, he knows how intense one must train as an actor to become great at it.

So then why does he think screenwriting would be any different? I would argue that becoming a good screenwriter is much harder than becoming a good actor. 99.99999999999999% of the people on the planet can’t keep a reader’s attention for more than 2 minutes on the page.

That’s not to say you can’t have crossovers. Matt Damon writes. Ben Affleck writes. Chris Rock writes. Actually, Chris Rock’s debatable. But in any case, these are guys who have always been writing, who came into the business as double-threats. I confess I don’t know the specifics of Ryan’s background, but it seems like he just decided to write a script one day. And whenever you’re someone successful who enters another space, people are waiting to jump on you. Especially people on the internet, which might as well be called Haterverse.

I’m going to try and not be one of those people. I want to read this screenplay objectively. I just have a lot of respect for how difficult it is to write a good script. Therefore it’s hard for me to see people who haven’t gone through the trials and tribulations of struggling through this craft without a skeptical eye.

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Billy, on the cusp of the big four-o, knows her stripper days are numbered. And it couldn’t come at a worse time. She’s days away from losing her home and doesn’t have many skill sets to change that fate. Any that don’t include polls that is.

Her only shot is a loan and, ironically, the bank manager she needs to convince happens to be the guy she made fun of back in high school when she was the mean hot chick. But Bank Manager Guy doesn’t hold grudges, and offers her a job at his new unique facility, a sort of live theater house with some weird shit that goes on in the basement.

Billy takes the job because… what else is she gonna do? In the meantime, her teenage son, Bones, is running around trying to avoid the town bully, whose name is literally “Bully.” Bones finds spiritual solace in learning that a former town from the 1950s is buried under the nearby river and starts spending his time diving underneath the river and exploring it.

We’ve also got Rat, Bones’s teenage crush who lives with her formerly famous actress grandmother who now watches her old silent movies on repeat all day. If you stop them she begins a high-pitched scream that doesn’t end until you start them again. And we’ve also got Frankie, Billy’s 4 year old son who’s… SUICIDAL! Yes, Frankie dreams of getting run over by a car so whenever he’s near a street he runs into it, hoping to get hit.

That, in a nutshell, is Lost River.

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Gosling maybe should’ve titled this “I’m Lost River,” cause that’s how I felt half the time. The thing is, the script isn’t that bad. It’s just that Gosling makes a classic amateur blunder, one that pretty much every beginner screenwriter makes for their first few screenplays. That’s that he builds the story way too slowly. Everything takes forever to happen. If he would’ve just sped it all up, this might have been a good movie.

Case in point. The script’s most compelling element was this old underwater city. Ask me what page this city first gets mentioned. Page 10? No. Page 20? Nuh-uh. By page 30 at least. No. 40? Nosir. It isn’t mentioned until page 50!

Wha???????

You’ve even titled the script after this underwater town. Why isn’t it mentioned until the film is halfway over???

In addition to this, we have the Wolf Playhouse and its sketchy basement activities. This part of the script also had some cool ideas in it. Billy’s job is to get inside this clear bullet-proof shatter proof super-reinforced coffin of sorts. Men then come into the room and take their rage out on you. They can do whatever they want, except touch you, obviously, since you’re protected by this super-coffin.

But that storyline doesn’t truly get started until around page 75. With just 25 pages to go in the script!!! Naturally, the rest of that storyline feels rushed. This is a classic structural problem and something that if you don’t write a lot of screenplays, you’ll likely screw up.

I was recently explaining to a writer that anybody can ramble a story together over 150 pages. Just by the mere fact that you’re continuing to type, you’re going to carve together a story at some point. What the pros do differently is they make sure every scene has a strong reason for being there. This ensures that the story is tight and focused.

One of the easiest ways for me to tell if a writer knows what he’s doing is to read the first few pages of his script. A good writer makes you feel like you’re going somewhere right away, like there’s a meticulous design being laid out. Inexperienced writers just sort of write scenes until they come up with an idea for a good scene. They then, inexplicably, keep the previous four or five pointless scenes, believing those scenes justify themselves by the mere fact that they inspired the relevant scene.  That’s not how screenwriting works. You have to jump into your story right away and never waste space.

The rest of Lost River is a mixed bag of floating debris. Gosling is trying to create something deeper and more thoughtful here, but it’s not entirely clear what that is. He gives his characters names like Bones, Bully, and, Rat. He’s got the big bad wolf play theatre. Rat lives in a “nest” inside her hoarder grandma’s house. The Lochness monster even makes a cameo. So I guess it’s like this fairy tale but because the script takes so long to find itself, none of those symbolic references register in any meaningful way. In fact, they often feel on-the-nose and silly.

And then you just have weird choices like a suicidal 4 year-old obsessed with getting hit by a car. When Frankie escapes from school to run out in the street and get hit, Billy confronts his teacher with this line. “You fucking bitch.” The teacher’s response: “I have never, in my entire career, dealt with a child who was hellbent on getting hit by a car. It’s all he wants to do. You ever ask yourself why your son has a death wish at four years old?” Not gonna lie.  Almost put down the script after that one.  And are 4 year-olds even capable of suicidal thoughts? This didn’t make any sense to me.

I wish Gosling would’ve let a professional screenwriter write this for him. There are some genuinely cool ideas in here. But ideas without focus are just ramblings. And that’s a bit what Lost River felt like.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Whatever pace you’re setting up your story at, chances are it’s slower than it needs to be, especially if you’re new to screenwriting. This is why you hear all these rules like “combine scenes” and “only write scenes if they’re absolutely necessary.” It’s all to move the story along faster so that you keep your reader interested.

  • klmn

    Have read 22 pages and I’m not motivated to read further. It just doesn’t grab me.

    One thing I noticed is that Gosling doesn’t know cars. A Dodge Wildcat? Buick made the Wildcat.

    • carsonreeves1

      And he was in Drive too! If anyone should know cars…

      • LV426

        I believe he shot Lost River in Detroit, which is like the car maker capital of the United States.

  • http://twinscripts.net/ TommyFields

    Putting in a suicidal 4 year-old sounds to me like Gosling is trying to hard to give the movie a dark vibe instead of looking what fits the story.

    • carsonreeves1

      That’s exactly what it is. Good screenwriters make sure every character makes sense within the story. And that every decision serves the story. Inexperienced writers just throw in whatever good ideas they come up with, regardless of whether they fit or not.

    • BigDeskPictures

      Side note: A scene in Tarantino’s unfinished project (MY BEST FRIEND’S BIRTHDAY) contains dialogue of his character reflecting on having suicidal thoughts as a three year old, which may be one reason the film remained unfinished.

  • ripleyy

    Nothing in this world frustrates me more than how much potential this script/story has. If I could just somehow reach into an alternative reality, I know for sure there is a perfect version of this somewhere. But I can’t reach into one and I’ll never know for sure what a “good” version of this will ever look like.

    I agree that there’s some good ideas here (the underwater city idea is masterful if you ask me) but Ryan just thought “Well, I read fifty scripts a year, I should know how to write one”. Well, you can’t. Same way he thought being in ten films a year could make him a sufficient director. Which, it turns out, he isn’t. The film is apparently just as messy as the script.

    But despite all of this, I do like Ryan. In fact, when I listened to his band “Dead Man Bones”, I liked it as well. The band has the exact same vibe as this movie: It’s dark, vivid and strange.

    Ryan will now think that he’s directed one movie, written one movie, that he can go ahead and rinse-wash-repeat. Sadly I think he has a long time to go before he can master this. If, that is, he ever masters it at all.

    • charliesb

      I feel like there was another movie that had a city that was underwater, but the title is escaping me right now…

      I think there was also one in that Robert Downey Jr movie, where he became a serial killer. IN DREAMS.

      • ripleyy

        I’m sure there’s been plenty, but I just loved the idea of an underwater city being near another one like there is in this. I thought this movie was going to have a really dark, Goonies-esque adventure that takes place during it with del Toro-like monsters and lore. But we don’t really get that here, which is a shame.

        • Ninjaneer

          I don’t think that would be hipster enough for Gosling. Too many people would like it :)

  • davejc

    Good article. Folding scenes is one of the best techniques I’ve learned here at SS.

    ” And are 4 year-olds even capable of suicidal thoughts?”

    It’s debatable. But they do have a habit of getting in front of moving cars. Especially in parking lots.

    • Randy Williams

      I guess Carson doesn’t read the headlines. “Secret Service scramble after 4-year-old climbs under White House fence.

  • mulesandmud

    You never hear someone walk into a hospital and say “Hey, I think I could be a really good brain surgeon. Didn’t study it or anything, but I’ve gone to the doctor a few times. Mind if I give it a try?”

    Why do so many people act that way about writing? Maybe it’s because there are lower stakes. Or because the tools are so familiar. Paper and pencils and laptops are part of everyone’s life, right? So if those are a writer’s tools, then I must be a writer, right?

    If I used scalpels and bone saws and retractors as part of my daily routine, maybe I’d consider myself an amateur surgeon, too.

    The quote “A writer is someone who writes.” is a cute one, fun to deploy as a quick pep talk for the lazy or the aspiring. It doesn’t actually mean much though, which is probably why no one ever takes credit for saying it.

    I prefer Thomas Mann: “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” If ever a single sentence has defined the conundrum of a writer’s craft, that’s the one.

    This shit is as hard as you make it; if you take it seriously, then it’s supposed to be hard. The further you push, the harder it gets. If it’s easy for you, then you’re either dabbling or not working hard enough. And it will show on the page.

    None of this is necessarily a reflection on Ryan Gosling. He’s welcome to trying his hand at writing or directing, the same as any other amateur. His celebrity status is certainly helpful for getting a movie like this one made and seen, but it also comes with its own kind of backlash, i.e. the audience beatdown LOST RIVER took at Cannes.

    Reading the script, I get the impression that Gosling has done some writing in the past. This prose is confident and there are solid elements here, even if scenes tend to hover in the lyrical bullshit territory too often.

    In general, I’m a supporter of indy projects that resist conventional story structure and logic, but those projects demand their own special kind of discipline; they need to make a promise that this story will find its own unique logic and trajectory, that the seemingly aimless shape will resolve into something meaningful. That’s tricky business, and I’m not seeing enough of that promise in these early pages to keep reading.

    • Jarman Alexander

      I believe, to follow along with you into the brain surgery realm, it comes down to a person simply not understanding what’s involved in being a great brain surgeon (writer). They were wee little kids when their parents helped them every night to practice their knife skills.

      By the time they were grown, they could handle a knife far better than anyone in their high school. Hell, in college they prepared some pretty tricky meals that required fanciful blade work and were lauded over by professors. For those who feel truly gifted, they may even use a knife every day, even if it’s just to pick at their teeth on their drive home from work.

      This is all why a person like this would scurry into a hospital yelling, “Show me to the patient. I have a knife and I know how to use it.” For them, they’ve been doing surgery every day of their life, but where they fail is in grasping the knowledge and understanding it takes to use a blade in that particular arena.

    • Linkthis83

      “I’ve been working hard on [Ulysses] all day,” said Joyce.

      “Does that mean that you have written a great deal?” I said.

      “Two sentences,” said Joyce.

      I looked sideways but Joyce was not smiling. I thought of [French novelist Gustave] Flaubert. “You’ve been seeking the mot juste?” I said.

      “No,” said Joyce. “I have the words already. What I am seeking is the perfect order of words in the sentence.”

      ― James Joyce

      • Kirk Diggler

        And he’s notoriously unreadable.

        • Linkthis83

          No doubt. I don’t subscribe to this obsessiveness approach, but I fully understand it.

          • Kirk Diggler

            What are you trying to say Link? Are you nuttier than squirrel poo?

          • Linkthis83

            I must be. And yet I must live with it. Somehow.

        • Bob Bradley

          Joyce isn’t a hard read, but for his last novel. His short stories are very simple and easy to read, if profound.

          • davejc

            portrait of the artist as a young man

          • Bob Bradley

            Even simpler is Dubliners.

      • Eric

        The most satisfying writing sessions I’ve had are the ones where I manage to subtract pages from my script rather than add them. It’s also the most intensive type of writing session.

    • JakeBarnes12

      Nice to see a Mann quote on the day another great German writer (Grass) has passed.

      And you nail it in the final paragraph. For me that’s what separates Lynch’s “Lost Highway” or “Mulholland Drive” from “Inland Empire.”

      • Doug

        Hey, I loved Inland Empire!

    • klmn

      Oh, come on. Haven’t you ever wanted to do some biohacking?

      Here’s some footage of one of my favorite mad scientists, Dr. Robert J. White. (This is about seven minutes long, so you might want to watch later).

      Now, doesn’t this look like more fun than writing?

      • LV426

        Recently I saw an article about some doctor and his plans to do a human head transplant in 2017. It sounds like a bit of a stretch.

        • klmn

          There’s a longer piece about White on YouTube where he talks about doing head transplants to prolong life. He mentioned Steven Hawking as a possible candidate. The downside to that is that the person wouldn’t have muscle function – too many nerves to connect. The patient would be paralyzed.

          With modern anti-rejection drugs, I think it would work. But White won’t be doing it – he passed away.

    • Felip Serra

      Excellent comment. Thank you.

      On a side note: Do you know Mann’s writing habits? One page a day. That’s it. A morning and afternoon spent writing and re-writing one page until it was to his satisfaction. Then it was put away and the process was repeated the next day with the next page. It may sound counter productive to these high-speed times we live in but when you consider not only the lengths of his works (Buddenbrooks, Magic Mountain, and Joseph & His Brothers are all near 1000 pages each) but the quality as well, it’s quite an astonishing feat. Similarly, Jose Saramago only did two pages a day (22 books in 36 years).

      • brenkilco

        At the other end of the spectrum is the extraordinary English novelist Anthony Trollope who worked with a timepiece on his desk forcing himself to write 250 words every quarter hour which enabled him to write 2500 words a day and all before breakfast. He authored 47 novels over a span of less than forty years while for most of those years maintaining a full time job with the post office. And most of his works were both successful and well regarded. Not recommending it as a working method but credit is certainly due.

        • Felip Serra

          2500 words a day!? I presume by when he wrote it had to be longhand as well. What a monster.

          • witwoud

            If he finished one novel during his morning stint, he’d begin the next one immediately.

        • filmklassik

          I knew Trollope had a personal quota-system but didn’t know it was 1000 words/hr., which is remarkable.

          Never read his books but I’ve always loved his titles: CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? and HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT, et al. Always thought that if he was still writing today, he’d be turning out books with names like, CHECK THIS SHIT OUT! and THAT GIRL WAS WHACKED! etc.

    • ripleyy

      I think everyone should get a moment to try something new. A writer wants to direct, an editor wants to maybe become a stunt co-coordinator, and in this instance, an actor wanting to write. If they want to try, they’re more than happy to. I admire and I even support it.

      A lot of actors have become directors, a lot of writers have took up directing and a lot of directors try to act but don’t really do it very well and when it comes to writing, some directors just aren’t good at that either.

      So in the end, I admire Ryan for trying. Absolutely. He may have aimed a little too far and overshot it quite a bit, his first try may have also been a tremendous failure, but he gave it a go and that earns him respect in my books.

      • drifting in space

        I love this comment.

    • Buddy

      Loved the T.Mann’s quote. Thank you !

  • fragglewriter

    The ratings on Rotten Apple have increased, so that’s good. The trailer for the movie doesn’t pique the interest except for the character “Bully.” I like the way the character spews his hatred via microphone like a rapper.

    Thank you for this Tip Carson because my script is slow. I tried speeding it up more, but it still felt like slush. I’m a newbie, so I’ll keep practicing the pace of the story as well as the structure.

  • Scott Strybos

    “What if a screenwriter showed up and said, ‘I’d like to play a major role in your movie.’…”

    I don’t know if I agree with this.

    Let me preface by stating, no, I am not an actor.

    But actors study story, structure, and character extensively, at least the good ones do, to understand how to play a role well. They read hundreds of scripts. Successful actors read hundreds of scripts written by the best writers. They have more exposure to the tools we use than we have to the tools they use… I don’t know many writers who study acting to better understand their own craft.

  • Felip Serra

    My two cents:

    I feel like had Gosling done something more mainstream (something lighthearted, or something that would’ve played contrary to his “image”) then he would’ve been given a pass, regardless how the final product ended up. Instead, by doing an “art” film, he was never going to escape the claims of self-indulgence, self-delusion, pretention etc…

    I was thinking when Mel Gibson wanted to direct “Man Without a Face”, his first time in that role; skepticism and laughter abound. So Mel wisely detours the story’s focus away from him AND he hides his face under deforming make-up. It wasn’t a success but people bought Mel as a filmmaker and we got “Braveheart” soon after.

    • Randy Williams

      I agree with this. I also think the film looks too pessimistic for an American audience to accept it takes place here. Set it in Scotland or Brazil and they are praising it. Plus a woman raising sons on her own actually upsets many a folk.

  • charliesb

    I think this happens a lot with “art”. People believe they are “creative” and that their creativity is enough to guide them through making a great piece of “art”. A lot of people don’t realize that for most people it is the constant study and practice of craft that shapes creativity into art. It’s through learning how to perfectly draw the human body, that you are able to to figure out how to reduce it to a few simple lines and still convey your “message”.

    Similarly without understanding and practicing the basic rules of screenwriting, it is difficult to break or ignore them in a way that still allows the story and character to take shape.

  • drifting in space

    I put this down after the first page. I have never, in my life, dealt with such an amateur read. Surprising, too, as I had high hopes for it.

    Just goes to show you… even the pros can’t do it sometimes.

    • Rzwan Cabani

      Hey Drift, can you hook a brutha up? r.cabani@hotmail.com — would really appreciate, man.

      • Randy Williams

        Can you share it with me? I like to get into the heads of beautiful people, among other places. Touchthermo at g mail

  • Linkthis83

    I know this is the internet age and because of that we all get a voice, but sometimes the assessing and judgement passing truly seems to miss the mark of what we are trying to do here. If we are intending to be creators of material for others to experience, doesn’t it make more sense to dive into the realms and try and understand them, from the creator’s perspective? Instead of armchair second guessing an experience we haven’t even had yet.

    From the trailer, this looks visually stunning with atmospheric soundtrack. I’m a big story guy and I do believe this one isn’t going to stay with me from a story point – however, why would I judge and try to undervalue what Ryan (and team) tried to do here? Where’s the value in that? Doesn’t seem like the professional approach either. I think what I’m mostly getting at is that there is value in trying to understand and make cases for things. It’s easy to sit back and take shots at others creations.

    I wasn’t even going to post today until I learned HOW this project became what it is. He didn’t sit down and think “Hey, I’m in movies, I bet I can write one.” It came about because of his infatuation with Detroit and the state is was in. He realized that if he wanted to capture it in any way that he would need to start shooting it. Once he started doing that, then he realized he wanted to tell a story. He didn’t intend to direct at first nor did he start with a story. So effing what if that’s the way this creation started. If the story doesn’t deliver for each of us as individuals, sure it’s disappointing. Since the ways to create a story aren’t limited, then he may create as he wishes. This desire to label and categorize and discredit only have a place if by partaking in these actions assist you in creating something to be judged, categorized, disassembled, discredited, questioned and assigned an arbitrary, unquantifiable value as given by individuals.

    Here’s a link to a brief article regarding an interview between Edgar Wright and Ryan Gosling after a screening of LOST RIVER. Ryan even states the following:

    “I didn’t know it was going to take three years. You don’t know how to make a movie until you make one. As many as I’ve made as an actor, it doesn’t prepare you at all,” he admitted. “But that’s also the best part about it, the thing that I love the most. I got to spend this big chunk of time with this one thing. When you act, it’s amazing, but it’s a few months and that’s it. So the long game of it all was really a surprise to me, but in the end, it’s probably one of the best parts.”

    And here’s an interview with Ryan and Matt Smith (Bully):

    • charliesb

      I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say. And I’m looking for clarification, not trying to pick a fight. :)

      So because he had “noble” aspirations behind making his first film, we can’t judge and assess the output to the same standards that we hold any other film or screenplay? Is it the jabs that people are making about him being an actor and therefore most likely less qualified to write a great screenplay that are bothering you, or the critical nature of the work itself?

      “why would I judge and try to undervalue what Ryan (and team) tried to do here? Where’s the value in that? Doesn’t seem like the professional approach either. I think what I’m mostly getting at is that there is value in trying to understand and make cases for things. It’s easy to sit back and take shots at others creations.”

      This particularly seems strange to me, because this is a blog about screenwriting, where work is torn down and or praised daily in order to further understand, discuss and hopeful get better at the craft. I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that not finding merit in his (Ryan’s) work is unprofessional. Work/Art that we create for ourselves is beyond scrutiny. Work that we put out there and share with the world (especially at Cannes) is open for interpretation and criticism as much as it for praise.

      I think it’s cool that he had a great and eye opening experience making this film. It probably means that his next one will be better, but the goal of this blog is not (at least IMO) to simply praise a nice attempt, but teach us where we as amateurs who will almost never be given the opportunity to explore an infatuation on this level can become better writers. If this was a blog about filmmaking, I might feel differently, but since we’re focused on writing, I don’t see a problem.

      • Linkthis83

        I never quite seem to convey accurately what I mean so it’s completely fine that you bring this up :)

        Maybe this helps…For me, scripts are intentions. Ryan’s intention here was to create something. It happened in a very non-traditional manner. This script was a necessary component of that creation. Once I found out how this thing came to be, and the method that was used to get it there, traditional screenwriting negatives don’t really apply here. Sure we can be critical of them, but this is a product of his intention.

        I feel like the writing was just one component of this whole thing. He didn’t romanticize or analyze the writing like we would. It could be whatever he wanted it or needed it to be.

        It’s not like he started with an idea, then an outline, then drafts, then reads, then notes, then edits, then shopped it, and so on and so on. This was a different animal out of the gate. So criticizing it from a more traditional approach seems less applicable here. Because he has resources that are unavailable to the majority of us, I don’t think he has to write a script that would have to fall under any rating system.

        I think it’s an easy target to take shots at, and those shots have been taken. I feel that without the willingness to put this script in its proper context, judging it at face value and applying traditional story wants/needs to it counterproductive.

        Carson mentions that Ryan makes a “classic amateur blunder” about the story building too slow. If Ryan wants it slow, then he achieved it. Of course if he feels he failed with this film and script, he likely won’t say it for a few years.

        When I read the opening pages of this script and this review, I needed to know more. Once I got that info, I felt like I didn’t have a solid foundation for this specific script because of what I learned about it and how it came to be. I’m not praising him for a noble effort, but I’m not also going to claim that he blundered anything. If you find a person who likes it, did he still blunder?

        I interpret the reviews of this script to convey that Ryan has failed and appears noobish. I don’t feel that this is the script to do that kind of right/wrong approach with. Thus, I feel it’s unprofessional to not put this particular script into the proper context (which is that it’s not to be treated like the majority). I also didn’t mean to offend anyone and I certainly didn’t want to come off as soap-boxish in my post. Though I feel I may have.

        (this is probably even less clear than before – I think @disqus_G9cmyN7Yqn:disqus articulates it well in another post)

        • Kirk Diggler

          I’m taking it you feel that Gosling’s film is art for art’s sake and that it shouldn’t be judged by Hollywood spec standards. Which makes sense. I think Carson’s approach is always going to come from a story and marketing sense, it’s why he always mentions that most amateurs fail from the moment they start writing because their idea sucks.

          Gosling doesn’t have to have those concerns because he’s not an amateur (from a showbiz perspective) and he got financing for the film so he can do what the fuck he wants and the screenwriting rules don’t apply because it was always going to be an art house film.

          As someone once said about art criticism “The artist is the only one qualified to criticize his art, because only the artist knows what he was trying to express and how satisfied he is with the attempt.”

          Does anyone think Gosling cares about his low Rotten Tomato rating?

        • charliesb

          So here’s the thing Link, I’ve been reading your posts on this site for a very long time, and I think you’ve been very upfront about your willingness to give a lot of things that Carson and/or other readers of this site would deride, a more shall we say… open minded look. That’s not to say that I think Carson, et all (myself included) are not open minded, but I’ve often noticed you are able to find merit in things that I might not.

          I think that’s valid, I think it’s very valid when we talk about film as art. But I think that you can also accept that most of the time that’s not what we are doing here. Carson chose to review the script and not the film, not just because that’s his purview, but probably because that is where he can find lessons that will help his readers.

          Where I think we probably strongly disagree (and I was saying this in another post) is that I believe that the rules always apply. Whether you are creating art, writing a novel, making a film, baking a cake etc. A strong understanding of the rules, concepts, and history of whatever it is you are doing is necessary before you go and break, ignore, or change them for your own purposes.

          It’s why in art school, despite whatever field you plan to study, or whatever style you want to create in, you are forced to learn the basics. Anatomy, colour, design. It’s why in music you are forced to learn the notes, scales and chords. It’s why chefs can be judged on their ability to make an omelette. How can you break, change or subvert rules without a firm understanding of what they are?

          Obviously there are exceptions, and I don’t think art created without a solid foundation of craft holds any less merit than art that was. But I do believe that it is the difference between good and great.

          For me “traditional screenwriting negatives” always apply. And I think that there is a big difference between a script that chooses to break rules than one that has been written by someone who doesn’t know them or think that they need him. From Carson’s review and some of the comments of the others, I interpreted this script to fall into the latter.

          It’s possible that Gosling is very happy with his script and film (I’d think you’d have to be to submit it to Cannes), it’s possible that he wouldn’t change a thing if given the chance. But I would like to believe that as a newer writer and filmmaker, he would be open to the criticism and take it into account when attempting his next work.

          Also I don’t think you offended anyone, though the “unprofessional” comment still sticks out to me, I can’t quite figure that part out.

          • Somersby

            I understand where Link is coming from (I think)… and emotionally, there’s a lot to be said for his argument.

            But I think you rightly summarized what this site is all about. It’s about analyzing the word on the page. Does it work? Is it clear? Does it have potential (and we’re talking commercial potential here.

            Granted, Ryan Gosling could spit on a piece of paper and it would likely get more reads than the script I’ve toiled over for months… but that’s Hollywood, ain’t it.

            …I enjoy your insight and comments.

          • Linkthis83

            Just to get this out of the way first: I appreciate this reply. I love these discussions and sometimes it takes bold posts for others to post stuff like this. I’m not really trying to be the definitive voice on the matter, but rather, just a voice/perspective (Although, my comment about being “unprofessional” negates that – and that comment was more out of frustration for some of these view points).

            The beginning of this article isn’t about the script, it’s about Ryan and his audacity to think he can write one. That’s presumptuous and not at all the case. But it certainly sets the tone for the article (for me):

            So then why does he think screenwriting would be any different? I would argue that becoming a good screenwriter is much harder than becoming a good actor. 99.99999999999999% of the people on the planet can’t keep a reader’s attention for more than 2 minutes on the page.

            This didn’t come to exist because Ryan thought “I can write. How hard could it be.” The reality is that none of us know we can until we do. So this attitude towards the writer and not the script, and the support of this viewpoint, is where I think the unprofessionalism comes in.

            If your view is that the rules apply always, then this script never stands a chance. I think that because it’s genesis through to completion is quite untraditional, trying to apply traditional criticisms is paradoxical. Thus, they don’t apply.

            I’m not even going to dive into whether it’s art or not either. It’s that it wasn’t just a script before it was anything else like the majority of the work is. It was generated because of an intention that started before the script existed. And when the script started to exist, it was penned by the man who already had a physical destination for it – so again, he didn’t have to approach it traditionally.

            And here’s the crux of why, for me, I don’t hold this script to the same standards as other scripts…this is from an interview with Ryan Gosling:

            “…I had this experience there, they were tearing down all these historic buildings and I thought if I don’t start right now it’s going to be gone.”

            He simply didn’t have the time to learn the craft of screenwriting or gain more experience. He was up against the clock and got something done. He didn’t have the luxury (or burden) to pine away at it endlessly. It’s a simple as that, for me. Once I understand the parameters under which it was created, then taking shots at the thing is just easy to do and most likely, not applicable. But only from my perspective.

            Knowing what I know now about this thing, I’d want to check it out to see what I like about what he was able to do under these circumstances.

            After reading through the article again, I think that tone I disagreed with in the beginning carried more weight through the rest of the article with me (even if it shouldn’t). But looking at the criticisms Carson sites, he’s siting them as if they are incorrect or wrong. While this may be true of other scripts/stories, if they were what Ryan intended, then again, he accomplished his goal while not fitting into someone else’s box of expectations/wants.

  • Poe_Serling

    I know this is Gosling’s first film as a director… will it be his last? Hard to say.

    Just had a quick ? for the SS community: Of all the actors who have only directed one film in their careers… which one is your favorite?

    My top pick: Night of the Hunter.

    “A bogus preacher marries an outlaw’s widow in search of the man’s hidden loot.”

    Directed by actor Charles Laughton. Starring Robert Mitchum.

    Runner-up: Home at Seven.

    ” It follows a man who returns to his suburban home one evening to discover that he has been missing for 24 hours, despite not remembering the ‘lost’ day.”

    Directed and starring Ralph Richardson.

    • klmn

      Doctor Gore, aka The Body Shop.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069811/combined

      Directed by J.G. “Pat” Patterson, who was an actor and Gore Effects Artist for the legendary Hershel Gordon Lewis. This movie reportedly set a record for the amount of stage blood used.

      Introduction by HG Lewis:

    • mulesandmud

      Doesn’t get any better than NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.

      As an honorable mention, Bill Paxton’s FRAILTY deserves some respect. Not just for being a underrated one-and-done film from a beloved actor, but also for being a serious love letter to Laughton’s film.

      • Poe_Serling

        Yeah, I was this close _ to listing Frailty as my top horror choice as a one-and-done film directed by an actor.

        Then I discovered that Paxton also directed the sports drama The Greatest Game Ever Played starring Shia LaBeouf*.

        *We probably can pretend that one doesn’t exist. ;-)

        • Ninjaneer

          Paxton is lucky that Shia didn’t eat him.

      • Ninjaneer

        Alright alright alright, I love me some Frailty. The production value could have been much better but it’s on my list of top 50 movies.

      • cjob3

        And they’re oddly similar films. Innocent children dealing with psycho father figures.

        • Ninjaneer

          Have you had any bites on your script or calls from agents since Friday?

          • cjob3

            Yeah, I just got a couple interested emails today from people who like the script and wanna talk. So we’ll see.

    • Levres de Sang

      As per mules I doubt there’s anything out there to trouble Laughton’s effort. And while I drew a complete blank, the exercise did remind me that I’m intrigued to see Klaus Kinski’s crazy biopic of Paganini. I recall Werner Herzog saying that Kinski brought an “unpleasant climate” into Cobra Verde because by then he believed he WAS Paganini.

      Herzog also said that Kinski’s script was “unfilmable”…!!

    • Kirk Diggler

      If Deniro hadn’t directed that CIA film, “A Bronx Tale” would be up there for me.

      • charliesb

        A Bronx Tale was a great, and very quotable film. I have a friend who brings up “the door test” at least once every few months.

  • gonzorama

    I’ve just watched it, and, yeah, wait for it to stream into your home. It’s not the worse film I’ve seen, but there’s not much to it. There is zero character development, things happen for no reason, Bully should be called Cruely, and the heavy drone-infused music kept trying to tell me how fearful I should be of impending doom.
    Overall it’s pretty thin. Thankfully much of the items that drew critique in the script barely surfaced in the film. The suicidal kid was hardly there, and didn’t run out in front of cars. The mother’s stripper job was not a stripper job at all — it was a creepy place where losers with money paid to watch people get tortured and injured. And the body cell she was in at the end was a poorely executed horrible idea. I kept thinking if you replaced the dreadful music with a laugh track it would look like a cheap sitcom. Silliness disguised as drama.
    I didn’t hate it, but I did have to force myself to sit through it. If you can’t see it for free like I did pass on it.

    • klmn

      How does it compare to BLOODSUCKING FREAKS?

      • gonzorama

        I’d re-watch Bloodsucking Freaks…

  • jridge32

    Hmm… is about all I can. On the one hand, “How to Catch A Monster” is unpredictable. Could not tell where it was headed from scene to scene. But that’s also sort of its biggest drawback: all over the place-edness. If that’s a word. Ryan Gosling’s script isn’t boring, it’s just not very focused.

    Bones is a teenager planning to put his hometown of Lost River in the rearview soon as his car is up and running. His bother Franky is a kindergartner with a propensity for wandering into traffic. Their single mom, Billy, is a stripper behind on house payments (presumably because all her money goes to cab rides and tow trucks), so the bank is foreclosing. Which maybe shouldn’t be a problem, considering Lost River has become a town full of burned down homes standing “like tombstones”, therefore unsuitable for long-term family raising.

    A lot of residents have already accepted buyouts from land developers leveling homes left and right, but this isn’t an option for Billy. She’d rather stay put till the wrecking ball turns her house to mulch, with her in it. She would have to get caught up on her payments before qualifying for a buyout, anyway, so maybe her defiance has more to do with the fact that she’d be walking away with empty pockets if she left now than any kind of nostalgia or valor. Pretense of determination is kind of all she has.

    Meanwhile, Bones is dealing with a couple troublemakers — Bully and Face — who, in the opening scene, find Bones, get his jeans off him and set them on fire with a Zippo (you couldn’t possibly get jeans off someone still wearing them AND ignited as quickly as it unfolds here, but nevermind), then insult him and shove him into the river.

    Did I mention Bones is fascinated by water? There are scenes of him just staring into it. We get montage-y passages where Billy is at the bank, Bones is getting revenge on Face, then back with Billy, at the cemetery, then Bones staring at water again. This script has episodic tendencies.

    We keep getting reminders of moon stages, for whatever reason.

    Occasionally the tone is suspiciously off, as in a scene where Billy tells her sons about a certain former town being intentionally flooded:

    BONES: Can we get back to this town?
    BILLY: Sure.
    BONE: What the fuck?!
    BILLY: What?

    Bones’ mind races.

    BONES: Well… are there houses down there?
    BILLY: Yeah, I think so.

    Why’s he getting so… exasperated? Upset about his mother being broke and them not being in line for developer money, sure, but not about this.

    But there were times during “Lost River” when my hands were spread in confusion. Like, the job Billy takes at a theatre devoted to staged snuff plays. That girl named Rat, who lives with her hoarder grandmother. The Bones/Bully rivalry. Hell, even Loch Ness makes an appearance. It’s so scattershot.

    By page 72, I still. Had no Idea. Where it was going. Purpose should definitely have revealed itself so late in the game. Plus, I’m not exactly emotionally invested in any of these characters.

    The script moves. I liked some of the dialogue (“Come on, don’t you wanna stick the knife in just a little? Just the tip?”). But, was left not feeling like this was a story that needed be told.