Monday, December 5, 2011
12-04-11: Gosling Rising
HALF NELSON (2006) *** 99 mins. D: Ryan Fleck. Ryan Gosling, Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie.
A history teacher with a drug addiction strikes up an unexpected friendship with one his students. Will it be a friendship that will tear them down or lift them up?
Ryan Gosling comes into his own as Dan Dunne. A teacher who actually gets through to his students but harbors inner demons that could easily destroy everything he has taught them. Gosling does great work conveying the desire to do right by his students but shows his inability to shake his addiction. He has for the most part successfully hid his addiction but as is the case one day it will come into the light. Shareeka Epps does solid work as the student who makes a connection with Dunne. Circumstances bring them together and for what they have it just seems right.
The film is engaging as you wonder just where this relationship is going. Fleck keeps the relationship natural and realistic without getting exploitative. Outside this relationship, the interaction the characters have with other people is fairly perfunctionary. Drey's mom and a family friend aren't very memorable and the women Dunn sees is nothing spectacular.
The leads are great but the film, while good, doesn't live up to their performances.