Having Ryan Gosling's character -- the driver -- put on a non-emotive, unrevealing mask while killing Ron Perlman's Nino, was an interesting touch. His character is so seeminly non-plussed, near autistic in the film -- or, that is, you'd be tempted to describe him this way -- but you know there's no way he could be this and still be so likeable. He's still someone built to register your emotions, and care about them, so donning the mask was necessary to communicate
horror full denial.
The last scene in the movie, with Albert Brooks' character, Bernie Rose, is especially interesting, owing to this. Rose's advantage as a criminal is that he seems to appreciate just how much those he deals with are in need of true sympathic treatment, something he near alone is enabled to provide -- he can emphathize with you, make you feel worthy as a person, and at one point kills someone owing to his counting on how much his withholding of it can matter to someone. His problem is overconfidence; if he's in doubt about you, given the people he's used to experiencing, he rounds down rather than up. So he doesn't guess that Gosling isn't falling for his fatherly stuff and fully knows he is not going to let the girlfriend remain alive, whatever his talk about the girfriend being okay for never having seen him. The driver bluffs Rose into thinking he's going to let him kill him in the parking lot, and the scene reads as the kind of submission Rose has experienced from people through the film -- their strange eager readiness to let themselves be killed, so, it seems, to be the fully submitting child before the potentially remorseful parent. Rose has seen enough of this -- the death instinct, if you will -- and takes him as just like all the other beat-upon souls he's had to deal with rather than what he is -- a driver, someone actually at helm. Combat between two ables -- one who can kinda really care about you, and the other who fully can -- where what's at stake is who is actually the more emotionally evolved. Good stuff.
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Just saw the director's comments about the making of the film. He described how he insisted that all the actors come to his house and do their auditions there. As he said this, I was reminded of the pathetic, supplicating characters in the film, ultimately at the mercy of bosses. By agreeing to come to his home, they were agreeing to register him as their master. This is a director who will at some point maintain a vast distance between himself and those who serves him -- regardless of how big a star. When he asked Gosling to drive him home (which was a vast distance from the restaurant they were at), there probably was a little bit there of his making him his bitch. Reminiscent of Chris Nolan, me thinks. You indicate that to him how much you want to be in his films, and you're agreeing to let him use you, even to your ruin.