Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River premiered in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival. The reaction was, well, not very good. The Daily Telegraph called it, “A film so mind-bogglingly pleased with itself that the words “five stars – a masterpiece – Ryan Gosling” might as well appear on the poster,” which perhaps reinforces a notion that many critics had their claws sharpened during the screening. Amidst the tepid reaction, it may appear that the distributor of this odd fantastical thriller, Warner Bros., may be getting cold feet. According to Deadline, the studio is starting chatter with indie distributors with the hopes one of them will bite.
It seemed rather golden before the negative press started rolling in. Warner Bros. signed aboard to finance and distribute Gosling’s directorial debut. With a minimum investment of $3 million and an attractive group of talent assembled– Eva Mendes, Saoirse Ronan (Oscar nominated for her performance in Atonement; a part of the rich ensemble of Wes Anderson’s current hit The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Christina Hendricks (Emmy nominated performer of TV’s Mad Men and Gosling’s co-star in Drive) star in the film– it must have looked like a steal in the development phase. Warner Bros. also has had recent success commercially and critically with another handsome movie star who acquainted himself well behind the camera: Ben Affleck. Then the premiere seemed to change all that, and murmurs that Lost River (formerly titled How to Catch a Monster) was being dubbed “this years Southland Tales,” referring to the critically drubbed Richard Kelly project that got lost amidst its own ambition. That film too premiered at Cannes.
It may read like Warner Bros. is trying to dump on something it feels can’t make its money back, but as Deadline asserts, an edgy indie outfit (perhaps one like A24 Films, which has a fine job of making something out of such out-the-box pictures as Under the Skin and Spring Breakers) may make a more natural fit for something as seemingly elliptical and hard to sell as Lost River. Either way, under whatever logo, Lost River seems poised to make it theaters at some point, and with some touch-up tinkering post-Cannes might even surprise the critics that initially trashed it. On a silly note, perhaps it will find itself on a double bill with Grace of Monaco, the other cruelly judged 2014 Cannes offering that, for a time, looked like it was being dumped by its distributor.
We will stay on Lost River and its eventually outcome as more details become known.