In Defense of Gosling

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A while back, a podcast called The Courtesy Laugh debuted. In their introductory episode, one of the topics the guys touch on is the talent of Ryan Gosling. For whatever reason, Haley Bragg and I latched on to this and really delved into the issue at the place in Nashville that seems to inspire our pop culture sensibilities the most, Fido. Here are the results:

Wait. First, here’s a link to the podcast for a little background info:

The Courtesy Laugh, Episode 1

Now, the discussion:

Haley: My first thought is that Ryan Gosling is a GREAT actor, how dare you suggest that he isn’t?! Then I started to examine his roles, and I have to admit – they guy has made a career out of being Ryan Gosling. But that’s kind of the thing, right? How many A-list actors do you know that can disappear into roles and really transform themselves into someone completely unrecognizable? And don’t say Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s the exception to this rule. You also have to rule out Johnny Depp. He might disappear into roles with the use of makeup and costumes, but his behavior is still very much Johnny Depp.

Consider this: If Will Smith is America’s only true movie star (have you heard this argument?), you have to acknowledge that whether he’s playing an alien hunter in Men in Black or a matchmaker in Hitch, he’s still essentially The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. BUT, I think that as a movie going society we’ve allowed this and in most cases, encouraged it to happen. For instance, when we go see Crazy Stupid Love, we want Ryan Gosling to have the same inherent Ryan Gosling-ness that he will also have in The Ides of March and Drive. And I think that the choices he’s made in the past couple of years have allowed that, while also serving as a pretty calculated strategy to elevate him to his current status. The exception being Blue Valentine, of course. Nothing Gosling-y about that.

Jen: My first thought is that Ryan Gosling is a pretty good guy and a good actor and really incredible looking. (I mean, he can pull off a cardigan, Navajo tee and necklace AT THE SAME TIME and look pre-ty good doing it.) I agree with Haley that his success is based firmly in his Gosling-ness. (The counter to Haley comes in my belief that even in Blue Valentine, he was thoroughly Gos-tant. File under “Characters who are attractive yet inherently flawed.” File contents include Blue Valentine, Drive, Lars and the Real Girl, Half Nelson, Crazy Stupid Love, etc., etc., etc.) I don’t believe that his playing to type excludes him from being a good actor, though – you only have to look as far as Johnny Depp to see that sometimes, when script meets man, the results are pretty fantastic (e.g., What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Finding Neverland). I’m not going to bring Will Smith into this, because to be honest, trying to figure out his being the only true movie star makes my brain hurt. Nothing against Will Smith, but that is a discussion for another day (don’t even get me started on The Pursuit of Happyness).

Consider this: Praising Gosling, Depp, Smith…and I’d probably include Brad Pitt in there…for ultimately being themselves (and for good measure, let’s throw in some supporting actors – Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jude Law, et al), I feel like we’re talking about…what?…maybe 70-75% of all of the critically acclaimed performances in a year. The flipside are all of these equally great (because I’m totes not knocking Brad Pitt for continuing to film installments of Legend of the River Running through Joe Black*) actors who continually reinvent themselves for roles. This is where both Haley and I place Leonardo DiCaprio. I’d also throw in Christian Bale and Kevin Spacey. Then there are the guys who kinda play the same role, but totally against type. (An example of this type would be Edward Norton.**) THEN there are the guys who were phenomenal, and probably still are, but are moving quickly into pigeonhole territory (Russell Crowe. Sidebar: Ask me about my Hanks/Crowe theory sometime.) I’m not really sure where I’m going with my THENS, except to say, basically, it takes all kinds. All kinds, you guys. And sometimes that means embracing the Goslings as well as the DiCaprios. It doesn’t hurt that no matter which one is ultimately your cup of tea, they’re both smokin’ hot.

*Wayans brothers, I’ll give you this one on the cheap.

**What’s funny is, you think we (the audience) would totally start thinking “Well, maybe this is his type. I mean, he’s a really skinny yet angry and effectively violent guy in all of his movies, right?” However, probably because he’s really smart (Edward Norton and his characters) and not very imposing, it takes about 15 minutes post-film to forget that he’s a total badass and not the geekboat next door.


Haley and I sent the above off to the Courtesy Laugh guys, and then, in typical fashion, couldn’t let it go. Some follow up:

Jen: I feel the need to do this:

Goslings:                                     DiCaprios:

Ryan Gosling                                Leonardo DiCaprio
Will Smith                                     Kevin Spacey
Brad Pitt*                                     Jonah Hill (shocker!)
Johnny Depp                                Edward Norton
George Clooney                            Russell Crowe*
Tom Hanks                                   Casey Affleck
Jude Law*                                     Ben Affleck
Phillip Seymour Hoffman          Robin Williams
Seth Rogen                                    Jeff Bridges*
Joseph Gordon Levitt
Al Pacino
Matt Damon
Denzel Washington
Keanu Reeves
John Cusack

And let’s waste no time:

Gosleighs:                                 DiCaprias:

Sally Field                                    Meryl Streep*
Kathy Bates                                 Marisa Tomei (shocker!)
Julia Roberts*                            Cate Blanchett
Scarlett Johannsen (sp?)         Judi Dench
Meg Ryan**                                Marion Cotillard
Kate Hudson
Diane Keaton*
Embeth Davidtz

*These guys get an asterisk because I feel like you could make valid arguments either way. I might disagree with you, but I’d listen without immediately writing off your argument.

**Even though she tries really hard to change it up.

I know there are more males than females on my lists but I tend not to like actresses. I guess because I’m not also mentally calculating if they’re in “my range.” Here’s my question – of all of the entertainers out there today, who’d you like most to see pull an upset and just blow everyone away with their completely unexpected critical acclaim? It can be comedy to drama/drama to comedy/acting to music or vice versa. What do you think? I’m already a little biased because of my Jim Carrey Theory, so I’ll admit that mine is Russell Brand. He’s either going to do something really tragic, or really unbelievable.

Sweet LIME! I realized a second ago that we forgot about the king of all Nortonians, Daniel Day Lewis. Has anyone ever played such diverse characters to type (Type: Awesome) as well EVER? I say no.

Haley: One thing that I feel like wasn’t really clear in my argument was that the bigger the star, the more likely they are to fit into their persona. I would argue that Kevin Spacey, Ed Norton, Casey Affleck, etc. aren’t really mega-stars and that’s why they find it easier to disappear into characters. That’s why Leo is such an exception.


What do you think? Who did we forget? Who did we get horribly wrong?

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