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Half Nelson

by Archives September 27, 2006

For those of you who crushed on Sean Hanlon back in the days of Breaker High, and those who discovered Noah Calhoun in The Notebook, comes yet another name for Ryan Gosling to be remembered by and enamoured for: Dan Dunne.

Dunne is not your ordinary inner-city teacher. He is young, idealistic, and a cocaine addict. He befriends Drey (Shareeka Epps), a student, who discovers his secret.

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the movie. Throw in some background information on Dunne: his long-time coke addiction, his ex-girlfriend’s recovery from a cocaine addiction, her marriage, and his sexual relations with a school colleague. Add in some fun facts about Drey: over-worked mother, absent father, and a brother in prison for protecting a drug dealer, Frank (Anthony Mackie), and that’s about it.

This movie moves in on territory Disney has long laid claim over – the “friendship can conquer anything” area. In this case, friendship conquers a drug addiction, which could lead you to believe it is an inspirational film. It is not, but maybe Disney will pick it up and make a cartoon out of it.

I guess the question I really want answered is, ‘why cast Ryan Gosling as Dan Dunne?’ He’s charming, funny and well-known by the teenage demographic. He did win the 2005 MTV Movie Award for “Best Kiss” with girlfriend (and co-star in The Notebook) Rachel McAdams. But he just may have been too well known to really make the point, or have the impact this movie is looking for.

The criticism isn’t about Gosling’s acting; but when his character can almost rape someone and still have the audience’s sympathy with him, you know something’s wrong.

Gosling is almost irresistible, I admit it. His character, Dan Dunne, is very likeable. He is the epitome of everything wrong with society, and yet the women in the movie just love him.

His student is so intrigued by him that she “forgets” her keys so they’ll have to spend more time together and he’ll take her home with him! I wasn’t familiar with that teacher/student protocol.

It is as if the movie producers WANTED to encourage teens to go out and see this movie, and then do cocaine to emulate this new facet of Ryan Gosling. Perhaps this whole movie was produced with drug-money.

As I walked out of the theatre, trying to figure out how I really felt about this movie – a Disney premise of love basically conquering all, with the selection of the all-too well-known “it-boy” on the teen scene, I heard a couple behind me talking.

The wife asked, “Did you like it?” The husband stated simply, “No.”

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