What movie was that...?

19 November 2009

The Believer

directed by Henry Bean

Strange that it takes a Jewish writer/director to create such a shocking, devastating and (dare I say it?) convincing portrait of the mind of a white supremacist. Henry Bean’s The Believer succeeds in all the ways the Tony Kaye disaster American History X fails, it creates a realistic character in such inner turmoil that he turns it against himself. Adding just one more plot twist to the mix is the fact that the main character Danny (a force of nature performance given by Ryan Gosling in one of his first features) is also Jewish. Before you stop listening, keep in mind that this character is based (loosely) on a real Jewish neo-Nazi who killed himself when an article outing him was published in a local newspaper. What Bean delivers is a story of a man in conflict with himself, a man whose hatred of Judaism stems from his deep identification with the faith. Danny uses erroneous, but sophisticated, arguments that he repeats with a mantra-like formality to justify his anger, and in order to focus this anger, he reinvents himself as a white supremacist. Ryan Gosling blows off every door as Danny, bristling with such hatred that only an insider with a misdirected resentment for himself can feel. For those of you who prefer The Notebook or Lars and the Real Girl Gosling beware, but for those of you who see the kind of talent he possesses and willingness to push the boundaries will not be disappointed. Again, in another Academy regulation tragedy, Gosling was not even considered for a nomination because the film wasn’t ultimately released in theaters, a nomination he surely would have earned earned and probably should have won. Just watch and think about what might have been.

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