Predatory loans, metal scrapping, arson, and population loss are some of the major plot points featured in Lost River, hinting that the Motor City could serve as more than just a blighted backdrop in actor Ryan Gosling's made-in-Detroit directorial debut.
These issues, especially the ways in which they intersect with 21st century Detroit, are all worthy — perhaps overdue — of serious filmic consideration. Unfortunately, Lost River is not the film to explore them, content to merely create a psychedelic, two-dimensional pastiche of Detroit that somewhat functions as an allegory but never fully sinks its teeth into it. Actually, two dimensions is probably pretty generous.
Set in the fictional town of Lost River, the film has been described as a love letter to Detroit of sorts by Gosling. It defies a simple elevator pitch — something to do with a cursed flooded city, a gang of scrappers, and a strange nightclub that hosts burlesque performances involving simulated violence against women.
There's a lot to like, from Gosling's gorgeous cinematography to the film's scuzzy cabaret vibe, aided by a soundtrack by Johnny Jewel. (And sequins — so many sequins.) It could almost be Lynchian, or even Kubrickian. But lacking any real focus, we're left with more of a meandering art house mess.
The film, which currently has a score of 31 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, saw an extremely limited run in New York and Los Angeles before heading straight to video on demand. But despite the movie's shaky reception, it is fortunate that Cinema Detroit secured screenings here. It's doubtful that audiences on the coasts will understand what Gosling was going for — and where he missed the mark — as well as Detroiters.
Check Cinema Detroit's website for full showtimes, and check out the trailer below.