First Man #filmreview

 

I had an English teacher who mastered the ability to terrify through passivity. He would stand at the front of the class and stare into space. Gradually he would turn and look at you, his face betraying no emotion, no sign he’d registered your presence. It was the sense that he might display some sort of reaction to whatever it was you had done or said that left you feeling discombobulated. A fear of what his reaction might be.

Ryan Gosling does that in First Man. A lot. Twice we see some tears. A few times his face scrunches up in concentration. And he does smile and laugh a little, but that might just be wind.

I think we are meant to believe there’s a lot going on beneath the surface. the loss of his character’s daughter – if you didn’t know, he plays Neil Armstrong, he of the first man on the moon, one small step etc… We see him with a child’s bracelet. We see him leave it on the moon. I didn’t really believe that, but it might have happened. We see him lose close friends and colleagues. We see him nearly die. He might just as well have been buying artichokes and wondering if the price was reasonable for the time of year.

Ok, his generation weren’t exactly big on displays of emotion. And staying cool was essential given the crazy schedule they had to work to.

But there’s cool, calm and collected and there’s dead. His characterisation hovered somewhere between these points on the spectrum and sometimes I think he slipped too far towards the inert rather than the suppressed.

Let’s be clear, though; this is a very watchable film, even if those bits just focused on Gosling’s face in a  space helmet are a bit like staring at the door of your washing machine and wondering if you’ll spot the black sock you meant to leave out of the all white wash.

It’s an extraordinary film in many ways, since we know how it all works out and yet the director and cast manage to convey the gnawing tension that achieving this impossible goal must have imposed on everyone at the time. Well, apart from Ryan’s jaw because if it clenched once I wasn’t paying attention.

Claire Foy as Mrs Armstrong, in contrast, is a bundle of life. She lets it out and holds it in in ways that are demonstrably human. Hers is a compelling performance. Oscar quality. Buzz Aldrin comes across as a bit of an arse and all the more human for that.

But all the ‘buzz’ – sorry, not sorry – is for Gosling and his portrayal of a true hero of our times. He’ll probably get the Oscar. Maybe he deserves it.

Maybe.

Maybe he’s too pretty, not craggy enough. He’s a little unblemished by life, unlike the real Armstrong.  I grew up on Clint Eastwood playing strong silent types, but you didn’t doubt the power, the anger, the driven nature of his characters. I just never got any of that with Gosling.

Now, I will repeat, in case you missed this; it’s a film worth going to see. There’s nothing wrong with it. Yet there could have been so much more that was right with it.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published two anthologies of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand and Life in a Flash. More will appear soon, including a memoir of my mother's last years. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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32 Responses to First Man #filmreview

  1. Ritu says:

    A just review me thinks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. tidalscribe says:

    Just having coffee in posh hotel and laughing out loud reading this to Cyberspouse – will never look at my washing machine in the same way again! But I think we will go to see it.

    Like

  3. floridaborne says:

    I grew up in that time period and watched the moon landing on a black and white TV that used vacuum tubes. I think back to the ways in which these men were riding tin cans on rockets into space, with less computing power that had less storage space than what it would take to store a 3 page story onto a computer. I’ll have to see the movie before commenting on the portrayal, but I did see the trailer and thought, “He’s got it right.”

    Unfortunately, more than a few trailers don’t justify a movie. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Like the comparison to watching the washing machine.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 😀 Another blogger I follow really liked this film and did not mention Gosling’s performance. I’m going to picture the blank washing machine door if I ever see it myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rowena says:

    You actually separate your washing, do you? I feed all of ours to the washing machine god and see what comes back. I have a few delicates I wash separately and the dance stuff. The rest can take it’s chances. Needs to be resilient around here.
    I don’t get to the movies very often but I might go and see this. I have a particular interest in the moon landing as that was supposed to be my launch date. I arrived 10 days late.
    Speaking of male emotions, I have been wondering what happened to the New Age Sensitive Guy (SNAG) who was around when I was at uni. I have been getting the impression lately that women are pursuing strength and the SNAG could well be facing extinction.
    I’ve been thinking about this a bit recently what with reading the old uni newspapers. I think you’ll appreciate the one I posted tonight: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2018/10/29/how-to-succeed-at-university-by-really-trying/
    I could’ve used some of this advice or been aware of it when I set out.
    Best wishes,
    Ro

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      I had that snaggy stuff drummed onto me early on. It’s tucked away on a shelf somewhere with my walkman and kicker boots

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rowena says:

        Ha! Geoff, we must have all sorts of things like that drummed into us controlling our minds at a subliminal level.
        We’re coming out of winter here where we don’t wear must white but I’d never wash my summer whites with dark colours.
        Best wishes,
        Ro

        Liked by 1 person

  7. TanGental says:

    Some see his performance as expressing depth but to me it seemed more to suggest indifference. He’s not much of an actor in my book. Pretty enough I suppose…

    Like

  8. Erika Kind says:

    “Gosling’s face in a space helmet are a bit like staring at the door of your washing machine and wondering if you’ll spot the black sock you meant to leave out of the all white wash.” Now I finally have my definition why Gosling doesn’t do it to me at all…. lol!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this one. I saw the shorts and some other previews and didn’t recognise Mr Gosling at first – and also thought Claire Foy’s performance may have been over the top….. but given that the real man was an introverted, socially awkward kind of guy who all but went into hiding after the event, maybe that portrayal is close to accurate? I intend to see the movie especially as its one of those events where I still remember where I was and what I was doing and the news I was waiting for, the day it occurred..

    Liked by 2 people

    • TanGental says:

      Yes, it could be me. But you don’t get to be chosen to fly to the moon without demonstrable qualities that can be hidden by a reluctant public persona. For me the public and private personas were portrayed as the same and I don’t buy that. That said it is a very watchable movie. However … if you prefer Gosling to Foy I will be obliged to unfollow you….

      Like

    • trifflepudling says:

      I agree. I remember he was a notoriously unrewarding interviewee. Collins was about the most normal of the three. Wouldn’t mind seeing the film, though, having had all my Apollo 11 and space cuttings for years!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You are a fan! My daughter is very informed on the whole space exploration thing. At the time I was taking a phone call from my GP with news I had been waiting for for two years, I was pregnant with my first child, as Armstrong was putting his Eagle down onto the moon. Never forgotten moment – like what I was doing when I heard Elvis had died……. I’m off to the movie next week.

        Liked by 2 people

    • trifflepudling says:

      Contented Crafter: Yes, indeedy but, being an old romantic, the best one for me was Apollo 8, the one that happened at Christmas! I was only just 14 and very naïve still and really felt the whole thing was quite spiritual as well as amazing, especially when Frank Borman quoted the Bible plus “and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth”. (Am nowhere near so certain about such things these days!). I still love the documentaries they do about the human missions, don’t you? Yours is quite a moment to remember, though!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Mary Smith says:

    An entertaining review, Geoff. I’ve not sure about going to see this one and I’m still not sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. JT Twissel says:

    My father taught aeronautics to jet fighter pilots – many of the first astronauts were jet fighter pilots – and they were a rather humorless group of young men.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Two thoughts. As an English professor I apparently had “the look” down pat according to my students. Second I broke off an engagement to a man years ago after a friend said kindly “still waters don’t always run deep–sometimes still waters are just still waters.” Sounds like Gosling.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Actually, we had a nun at school who was somewhat on the fierce side and she had a little blemish on the side of her forehead which looked like a tiny hole. It was said that she took her brain out at night through it by means of a syringe and then put it back in again in the morning! Ah, little girls’ imaginations…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. carlabachir says:

    great review, liked your point of view and the points you discussed. I reviewed this particular movie myself. You can check my blog for latest reviews of new released movies

    Like

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