You may try to delve deeper into the meaning of Ryan Gosling's Lost River, in pursuit of the intensity of thought and feeling that I suppose the new writer / director aspires toward, but it's a shallow ditch of a waterway, rather than a grand cascade. Whether this is style over substance or not (and it is), the true test of films like these is whether or not they work on their own terms. What substance there ever may have been is not apparent here - it's not buried under thick layers of style, more like barely existing under a very thin layer. It's that style that Gosling instead tries to craft into a substance of his own, but therein lies the problem: it's not his own at all. He enlists Benoit Debie on cinematography because Enter the Void, Valdis Oskarsdottir on editing because Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Beth Mickle on production design because Drive... aha, there it is! A pastiche of finer works from finer filmmakers, the hollow employment of their legitimate techniques in service of artsy-fartsy wankery. Lost River thus functions entirely to appeal to the affected types, those of a similar constitution to Gosling, who might follow him down any little stream; there is no reasonable excuse for such silly concepts as these so indelicately treated. While Gosling may be well off the mark in thoroughly every respect, he at least provides Debie a rich canvas on which to work, which the talented DP does with customary invention and flair. The cast struggles with characters and dialogue deliberately under-developed; Ben Mendelson reaches breaking point at long last and collapses into self-parody. His egotistical dance routine is emblematic of Lost River's entire overblown enterprise, wholly misguided to the level of hilarity.