A Journey Through Ryan Gosling’s Filmography – Part 1: 2000 – 2010
As part of the JumpCut Charity Initiative this year I decided to marathon the filmography of JumpCut’s unofficial official mascot, Academy Award-nominee Ryan Gosling, in order to rectify my blindspots in his career so far. Shockingly, I hadn’t seen much of his earlier work and it wasn’t until I got to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, which was released in 2011, that I started hitting re-watches.
This first part of my journey will take us through Gosling’s first 10 years of acting in film, from Remember the Titans to All Good Things, with a few of my thoughts on Gosling’s performance, and the films, along the way.
10 years, 12 films, and 1 Oscar nomination.
Remember the Titans (2000)
First up in my marathon was a first time watch of Boaz Yakin’s Remember the Titans, which is based on a true story of Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, who was hired to coach the desegregated T. C. Williams High School’s football team. Gosling plays a supporting role as the Titan’s cornerback, but as becomes evident, he’s not all that good at it and is quickly taken off field and replaced with Donald Faison’s character, Petey Jones, for the majority of the season.
Whilst he didn’t have the right moves on the field, we are treated to a couple scenes of him showing us his own moves as he dances with his teammates. In general, Gosling’s character is definitely someone you’d want on your team. Right from the off he embraces his new teammates and his enthusiasm and camaraderie will be sure to put a smile on your face.
The Believer (2001)
Henry Bean’s The Believer, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, stars Ryan Gosling as a young Jewish man who becomes a neo-Nazi. Gosling delivers and incredibly strong first lead performance and it’s not hard to see how he continued landing lead roles after this.
Some scenes in Bean’s directorial debut are hard to watch, and having watched Gosling in all his later roles before this, it was incredibly strange to see him as this incredibly violent and malicious character. Thanks to confident direction and a commanding lead performance, I think The Believer is a must watch.
The Slaughter Rule (2002)
Alex Smith and Andrew J. Smith’s The Slaughter Rule is the only film in my marathon I couldn’t find to watch anywhere. Like, anywhere.
Gosling plays high school student Roy Chutney who’s life starts on a downward spiral after his father dies and he is cut from his school’s football team due to budget cuts. That is, until he meets Gideon Ferguson (David Morse) who recruits him for a six-man field league but as their relationship grows and Roy begins to find his self confidence, rumours start circling about them both and Roy starts to question things.
Murder by Numbers (2002)
Barbet Schroeder’s psychological suspense-thriller Murder by Numbers sees Ryan Gosling play Richard Haywood, a bored high school student who wants to execute the ‘perfect’ murder with a gifted student at his school, played by Michael Pitt. The pair plan the murder down to the last detail but Sandra Bullock’s tenacious Homicide Detective, Cassie Mayweather, is on the case and won’t rest until she finds the evidence to prove it was Haywood and Pitt, even if her newly assigned partner isn’t convinced.
Gosling is given the opportunity to have a little more fun with this character than his previous roles, and eats it up. His character is essentially the ‘coolest kid in high school’ cliche and can get people to do whatever he wants because of it. He shares some great scenes with Bullock as their characters class throughout the investigation.
The United States of Leland (2003)
In Matthew Ryan Hoge’s The United States of Leland, Gosling plays Leland P. Fitzgerald, a young detached teenager who is sent to juvenile hall after stabbing an autistic boy. The murder is seemingly senseless and rocks his local community. Whilst in juvenile hall, Leland meets teacher and aspiring writer Pearl Madison, played by Don Cheadle. Madison attempts to get close to Leland in order to understand why he did was he did, but following their early conversations, he decides he wants to write a book about Leland and this case. As the film progresses we learn more about Leland’s view of the world.
At this point in my journey through Gosling’s filmography, this was an instant favourite performance of his and one that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.
The Notebook (2004)
For whatever reason, I have never seen Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook before. I knew it was a romantic drama starring Gosling and Rachel McAdams, and yet I STILL hadn’t watched it at any point. Maybe I knew I should save it for a special occasion? Yeah, let’s go with that.
I don’t know what I can say about this film that hasn’t been shouted into the Twitter-sphere daily, but I absolutely adored it. I knew absolutely nothing about the film, so when the scenes started to take place predominantly in the present day, it was safe to say my heart genuinely broke and I had to head straight to the JumpCut group chat for support.
I’m not even entirely sure where to start with Marc Forster’s 2005 mystery-thriller Stay. Ewan McGregor plays Psychiatrist Sam Foster who is standing in for a colleague when he meets Gosling’s Henry Letham, who tells him he intends to commit suicide on his 21st birthday. Henry is struggling to differentiate between what is real and what isn’t and the more Sam attempts to help him, the more he seemingly appears to be losing grip on reality too as strange events occur as he tries to help Henry and stop him committing suicide.
Half Nelson (2006)
Going into the marathon, I’d heard a lot of good things about Half Nelson, and in particular Gosling’s performance in it. In the film, Gosling plays Dan Dunne, a high school teacher of history with a secret drug habit. Dunne also coaches the school’s girl basketball team and one day after school a pupil, Drey (Shareeka Epps) catches him in the toilet smoking crack.
The pair form an unlikely friendship that see’s them both trying to help one another with their personal lives. Drey’s brother, Mike, is in prison for selling drugs for a neighbourhood dealer, Frank (Anthony Mackie). Drey’s mother is constantly working to support her family, so Drey’s lack of proper adult supervision make her a target for Frank’s operation and Dunne attempts to intervene.
After watching Half Nelson it’s clear to see why it earned Gosling his first nomination for an Academy Award (which Forest Whitaker took home that year for The Last King of Scotland), but for me The United States of Leland is still my favourite role of his at this point, with Half Nelson firmly claiming second. Shareeka Epps also deserves all the love, delivering a raw and touching performance.
Gregory Hoblit’s crime-thriller Fracture sees Gosling go up against Anthony Hopkins in a battle of wits. Gosling plays young Deputy District Attorney Willy Beachum who has an almost perfect prosecution rate and is on his way to starting at a big law firm.
Ted Crawford (Anthony Hopkins) shoots and kills his unlawful wife, and even admits to it. But when he appears in court he pleads not guilty and states that he intends to represent himself.Beachum takes on the case, which seemingly appears like it could be one final win for him. However, the murder weapon is missing and Beachum must find some new evidence to present at court if he is to prove Crawford committed the murder.
Hopkins and Gosling both play off each other so well in this, and their shared scenes even have you sat there thinking Beachum should give it up.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
In Craig Gillespie’s Lars and the Real Girl, Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom, an awkward and extremely shy man who lives in the garage behind his brother’s house. Lars is quiet and shy even around his own brother and sister-in-law (Gus and Karin), who often invite him into the house for meals, but Lars always has an excuse not to. One day, Lars excitedly tells Gus and Karin he has met a woman and when they invite Lars and his new girlfriend over for a meal, they discover that this new girlfriend is in fact a life-size sex doll that Lars has ordered from the internet, which he appears to think is a real person, named Bianca.
I’d heard good things about this film beforehand, and honestly, much like a lot of films, I’m not sure what had stopped me from watching it sooner. It’s an adorable and heart warming filming. Seeing how Lars’ friends and community come together to support him, Bianca, and his family will warm even the coldest of hearts.
I’ve also had Gosling singing Nat King Cole’s L.O.V.E stuck in my head daily ever since.
Blue Valentine (2010)
If you’re sat one evening and looking for a film that will tear your heart out and spit on it, then Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine is the film for you. The film follow’s Dean (Gosling) and Cindy’s (Michelle Williams) relationship throughout the years. We meet them first in the present day, when they’re middle aged and Dean is a painter who has no professional ambition and Cindy is a nurse that works all hours under the sun. You can get a sense by the way they talk to one another that their marriage appears to be slowly falling apart, so Dean books a motel for the evening so the two can spend some time together.
Flashbacks give us an insight into Dean and Cindy’s lives before they met one another, and then the moment Dean fell for her at first sight. We then watch as the couple fall head over heels for one another and we’re passengers on the rollercoaster of their relationship over the years.
It’s hard not to fall in love with this film, despite how empty it will make you feel afterwards, especially since it features Gosling singing and playing a ukelele as Michelle Williams tap dances, talents which both actors kept secret from each other until this improvised scene.
All Good Things (2010)
Andrew Jarecki’s All Good Things is a love story and murder mystery based on the most notorious unsolved murder case in New York history. Gosling plays David Marks, the eldest of the third generation of the New York Marks real estate moguls, who was suspected but never tried for killing his wife Katie (Kirsten Dunst) after her disappearance in 1982.
All Good Things starts off strong but lost its momentum and my interest around the half way mark and it was a struggle to wait until the end, but for Gosling, I did.
This concludes part one of this journey, and part two will be live very soon and will take us through the rest of Ryan Gosling’s filmography, from Drive to First Man. Gosling undoubtedly proved early on that he had what it took to be a leading man and consistently delivered first-class performances in a variety of roles.