Friday Flicks: Will ‘Drive’ Take Ryan Gosling to Oscar Glory?

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Universal Pictures

Ryan Gosling in "Drive"

Grab some popcorn! NewsFeed’s Glen Levy brings you the movies you should check out (or avoid) this weekend.

Drive

Tagline: There Are No Clean Getaways

There’s hardly a heady history when it comes to the band REO Speedwagon and the movies. But we should thank them for getting the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and the star of Drive, Ryan Gosling, on the same page. On the way home together  – in a car, natch – after an unproductive meeting, the American rock band’s signature song, “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” came on the radio. Refn began to sing along and then told Gosling, “This is the film. It’s about a guy who drives around at night listening to pop music because it’s the only way he can feel anything.” Gosling was mightily relieved to hear it as he’d “secretly been thinking that as well.”

An unlikely way to get a film into gear perhaps but, hey, whatever works. And Drive looks set for life in the fast lane when it comes to genuine buzz; Refn won Best Director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. And what’s not to like? Gosling plays the mysteriously named Driver, who is a stunt driver by day but puts in the occasional shift moonlighting as a getaway man for jewel thieves and bank robbers at night, even if he’ll only give you five minutes of his time (which comes over as an almost intentional nod to Robert De Niro’s character in the magnificent Heat). But then he goes and gets entangled with his neighbor, Irene (Carey Mulligan, with whom anyone would get entangled, if given the chance) and all hell breaks loose, with the film literally spinning out of control. “My hands are a little dirty,” says Driver when he’s reluctant to shake with one of the movie’s many shady characters. “So are mine” comes the response. And so it goes.

The back catalog by the likes of Walter Hill, John Carpenter and Michael Mann has been cited in relation to Drive, with Gosling evoking comparisons to Clint Eastwood (The Man With No Name) and Steve McQueen (Bullitt). They’re not unjustified as Driver barely says a word – have so few been uttered in an LA based movie since The Terminator nearly 30 years previously?  – and he sure looks the part what with those shades and scorpion jacket. Be warned: you won’t warm to anyone you meet and the violence will not be to everyone’s tastes. But Refn’s direction is so stylish (the movie, despite the ugliness on show, is utterly beautiful to look at) that the squeamishness is a fair price to pay. “You’re not very good at this,” Driver is told as his sparse world begins to collapse around him. Perhaps not but the film is.

The bar (or should that be “car?”) has clearly been set high, almost astronomically so, which is why a cast containing not just Mulligan, but Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks (those last two in particular) will have taken some of the focus off Refn and Gosling. But you can’t help but conclude – or to put another way, you “can’t fight this feeling” – that it remains their movie with both parties presumably upgrading to more mainstream fare in the near future. But it surely won’t be as much fun.

(MORE: TIME’s review of Drive)

I Don’t Know How She Does It

Hendricks also appears in I Don’t Know How She Does It, directed by Douglas McGrath from the book by British author Allison Pearson. But she’s the co-star once again, this time to Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays Kate Reddy.

And much like Gosling’s Driver, Reddy has a duel career, albeit slightly safer: she works at a Boston-based financial firm by day and is a mother and wife to her two kids and Greg Kinnear at night (and presumably on weekends). Best friend Allison (Hendricks) is pulling off the same trick, while colleague Momo (Olivia Munn) is only interested in the first half of this perilous double act.

While SJP is receiving (relative) raves for her performance, one assumes it’s because appearing in anything compared to the car crash that is the Sex and the City movie franchise is a blessed relief. The real star of I Don’t Know How She Does It is screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna. IDKHSDI (as one hopes it will become known) is but the latest in a string of work (The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory, 27 Dresses) focusing on smart and sassy women who must deal with threatened men and women, before looking inward at themselves. In the good old days, they called them screwball comedies, and while we’re never likely to be blessed by stars such as Katharine Hepburn again, one of her most famous film titles sums up the mood here: Bringing Up Baby.

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: I Don’t Know How She Does It appears perfectly passable, but there won’t be anything that remotely resembles Drive this year.

MORE:TIME’s review of I Don’t Know How She Does It

Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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