Back in 2004, Ryan Gosling was on the verge of movie stardom after pinning for seven years for Rachel McAdams in the beloved weeper The Notebook. But the Canadian actor had no such ambition, deciding instead to delve in the indie scene, by starring in 2006′s Half Nelson, for which he earned an Oscar nomination; Lars and the Real Girl, which had him become disturbingly enamored with a sex doll; and 2010’s Blue Valentine, a heart-wrenching movie that caused hundreds of couples to split.
But this reluctant movie star is back at it again with three wide releases this year, Crazy Stupid Love which came out this past summer, the artsy action-thriller Drive which just hit movie theaters this past weekend to wild raves and the upcoming The Ides of March. Also adding to the intrigue is Gosling off-screen persona which has taken a life of its own as of late with that strange New York City street fight and even his own internet meme spreading on the web.
There is no doubt that Gosling is one of the most talented actor of his generation and that his star is on the rise. So why not have a look at his six best performances?
6. The Believer (2001)
Gosling is nothing less than mesmerizing as Danny Balint, a young conflicted Jewish man who struggles with his own faith and becomes a neo-Nazi skinhead due to his misunderstanding of its principles. Portraying his character as smart and extremely articulate, Gosling brings intense inner-conflict to this walking contradiction that Danny is. Based on a real story, The Believer was quite controversial when it came out right around the September 11 terrorist attacks but if you want to watch a young Ryan Gosling lighting up the screen, you definitely want to see this.
5. The Notebook (2004)
Let’s face it, Ryan Gosling is mostly known as “that guy from The Notebook” for a good reason. This unabashedly romantic tearjerker has been seen by more people than all of his other movies combined… times one hundred. Aside from being broadcast on cable TV seemingly 24/7, the movie has been in the Netflix top 20 rental for years. It’s hence no wonder that this iconic role has become somewhat of his signature performance. Gosling gives a quiet, soulful turn as Noah, a young man pinning for the love of his life across social barriers, World War II and years of separation. The Gos shares rare chemistry with Rachel McAdams (which is no wonder since they became an item soon afterward), making for a memorable screen couple. The movie was shot backward so he could lose 25 lbs to play the younger Noah.
4. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Ryan Gosling is nothing short of spectacular as Lars, an intensely dysfunctional and painfully shy young man who starts a relationship with Blanca, a sex doll he bought off the internet. He proceeds to treat her as a real girlfriend, taking her around town and introducing her to family members. Soon enough, the entire small town begins to play along for Lars’ sake. If you haven’t seen this movie, I urge to do so. Don’t be put off by its seemingly off-putting premises, it’s a sweet, heartwarming story of acceptance and Gosling pulls out all the stops in a superb performance.
3. Half-Nelson (2006)
Gosling received an Oscar nomination for his emotionally-charged portrayal of Dan Dunne, an idealistic inner-city teacher struggling with drug addiction and the disappointments that life brings. He begins to form an unlikely friendship with 13-year old Drey (Shareeka Epps) after she finds him passed out from cocaine use on the floor of the girl’s bathroom. The two of them must rely on each other in the hopes to overcome their bleak circumstances. It’s an eye-opening performance with the actor yielding his character so much nuance and complexity. Dan is thoroughly sympathetic despite his tendencies for self-destruction and we can see the great man that he can be behind all his flaws.
2. Drive (2011)
Gosling shines bright as “Driver” in Nicholas Winding Refn’s sleek and offbeat crime thriller Drive. The gifted Canadian-born actor has always been at his best playing quietly tormented, highly romantic loners so this role certainly was a perfect fit for him. At times abnormally cool and emotionally vacant, Driver is also capable of tender affection and seething rage. You can almost tell that he never had any kind of close relationship with anyone before he meets Carey Mulligan’s character. Subtly conveying a world of emotions through minimal delivery of dialogue and quiet body language, Gosling gives an intensely internal performance, one just as brilliant as his work in last year’s Blue Valentine.
1. Blue Valentine (2010)
“How do you trust feelings when they can disappear on you?” Anyone who has seen the gut-wrenching Derek Cianfrance romantic drama Blue Valentine can testify of the incredible work that Ryan Gosling does in this movie. Already an actor who tends to give quiet, naturalistic performances, Gosling pushes it to another level, giving a completely raw, seamless and genuine turn as Dean, a sympathetic loser whose sole aspiration is to devote his life to being a loving husband and father. His drunken rage in the hospital provides a thoroughly devastating and heartbreaking climax to a doomed romance. It’s transcendent acting at its best.
What do you think? Agree? Disagree? What is your favorite Ryan Gosling performance?