The Spotlight: The Ryan Gosling Effect

I’m going to try not to hurl myself into a sloppy drooling mess talking about Ryan Gosling. I’m not usually the kind of person that watches a movie just because there’s an attractive person it (please believe me). Mostly I do that for anything starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, because he never makes bad movies (RIP).

But I’ve been led astray with Ryan so much that my boyfriend won’t even watch movies with me when he’s in it. What is it about him? Is he the new John Cusack for our generation? According to Chuck Klosterman’s essay “This is Emo” from Sex, Drugs, and Cocopuffs, John Cusack ruined an entire generation of women who were looking for unrealistic portrayals of the broody, stereo-serenading emo guy in their mate. How can 3-dimensional guys compete?

Ryan Gosling is attractive, but it’s something more than that. Did it begin as a child seeing him in episodes of my favorite TV shows like “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and “Goosebumps: Say Cheese and Die?” (Nah, that’s kinda weird). It flourished later watching The Notebook, based on a romance novel from Nicholas Sparks that I was obsessed with when I was 18 (I can hear you judging from here… shhh).

The Notebook is a great example of why girls love Gosling. Basically the story goes, boy and girl fall in love when they are young and become separated by their family. Girl grows up and gets engaged to another man. Girl (now woman) comes back to town one final time and sees love from youth. She spends a day with him and, of course, realizes he has been waiting for her this whole time. She must then choose who she wants. This entire time you are rooting for Ryan, the love from her youth. The quiet, soft spoken yet intense guy who takes her for boat rides to see swans. The other guy is a nice guy, too. He doesn’t cheat on her, has a good job, and she seems to like him, too, but it doesn’t matter, because Ryan is there and has been waiting all this time  ::swoon:::.

He is the whole package, as depicted by the countless “Hey Girl” memes shown above. Many “Hey Girl” memes depict Ryan talking about how he loves watching what you want, doing what you want, understanding your needs, your career, and thinking about you ALL THE TIME (When you think about it, it sounds kinda boring and creepy). But he can be bad too… for the right reasons of course. He thinks he’s doing right, so he appeals to all women looking for that line between nice guys and redeemable bad boys. He has nailed the tortured soul character. This is the Gosling effect.

Not every movie Ryan touches turns to gold, and picking movies just based on him being in it has left me disappointed especially this week’s choice, All Good Things (yes, I even subjected myself to watching a Kirsten Dunst movie for him). So here is a list of my favorites, in order of his character transformation:

  1. The Notebook(2004)

The Notebook is a quintessential romance movie for chicks, featuring a guy that loves her so much he waits for her, even if he doesn’t think she’ll come back. He’s quiet, romantic, passionate, and loyal, especially as they grow old. This movie probably could have starred anyone and immediately become a “Hey Girl” meme.

  1. Lars and the Real Girl(2007)

I think Lars (Gosling) really expanded his romantic lead role with this long shot chance. His character has emotional issues and he’s dealing with them by treating an anatomically correct sex doll like a lady and dating her first. This could be weird, but instead it’s touching and sappy.

  1. Blue Valentine(2010)

Make sure to give your significant other a hug after this movie that depicts two people that have fallen out of love using flashbacks to tell the tale of how they got there. Ryan Gosling is old, a little pudgy, and balding, but he’s become a wounded soul who still manages to win the heart of the female audience. He is plagued with outbursts of tears and rage, flashing forward from the romantic guy who we have come to know in his earlier movies, to a tired, disappointed man. This is a stellar performance by Ryan, who shows a wide range of emotion from the teary eyed hotel sex scene to the final straw outburst in the office waiting room. It is by far my favorite Gosling movie, now that I’m a much darker soul than when I was 18.  I immediately hated Michelle Williams as his counterpart and blamed her for all their problems.

  1. Drive(2011)

Ryan, the quiet, bad boy stunt car driver falls into a life of crime by night. This movie is brutal and over the top violent. Director Nicholas Refn has a style that suits Ryan perfectly with lighting and sound (mostly the absence of it) to reflect his mood. He is the epitome of the strong silent type, saying only a few sentences in the first 15 minutes. Why is he still dreamy while bathed in blood? Because he tries to do right by his beautiful neighbor and her son who need help. Writer Noelle writes a longer post on this gem for the TBBC.

  1. The Place Beyond the Pines(2012)

Even directors can’t seem to get enough of him! In his second film from Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine), Ryan is a tattooed, motorcycle-driving circus performer with a love ’em and leave ’em carefree attitude until he revisits a town where he learns that he has a son. He quits the circus and tries to do the right thing. Too bad the woman already has a nice stable boyfriend and he can’t find steady work except bank robbing. His role in this film is brief but memorable, as his actions have later consequences unfolding throughout the film. He isn’t a redeemable person in this one. A longer review by Jen for TBBC.

  1. Only God Forgives(2013)

In the final transformation, Gosling plays despondent, weak Julian, the brother of an insane drug smuggler who finally goes too far and is killed for raping a young girl. Their mother, a sadistic and quite creepy woman who definitely messed with them as children, forces Julian to take revenge although he doesn’t feel it is right. While watching Nicholas Refn’s latest film (a second Gosling appearance from this director),  Gosling’s lack of emotion and silence becomes thoroughly disturbing as he orders a prostitute into his room just to look at her and only imagines touching her. This movie was an eerie dreamlike psychological portrayal of a dysfunctional family. Ryan is weak, unhinged, and unlovable, beyond redemption.

7. La La Land(2016)

I wanted to like La La Land. I really did. My boyfriend took me to it on a surprise date night and when Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone began dancing in the air I busted out laughing, crying even at the absurdity of it all. Surprisingly, I was the only one in the theater with that reaction. This movie had all the right ingredients; It had Emma Stone with her  “Look at my doe eyes  I’m wounded” on top of Ryan’s “Look at me I’m wounded too and I dance! What’s not to love?”  It had choreography, music, love and drama! I just felt like it was trying to be too many things. It was too disjointed. I actually think Shape of Water did a better job at incorporating a love story with old time music and dancing then this movie.  Not to mention that I believed in the love chemistry between a creature from the Black Lagoon and a mute woman, than I did between Ryan and Emma. So why Jessica, if you hated it so much, did it make the list? Well, it had Ryan in it…duh!



So am I over him? Who am I kidding telling you not to watch anymore Gosling films just because he’s in them? I already have Crazy, Stupid, Love and the Ides of March in my Netflix cue.

Author: Jessica

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