If Hugh Jackman really "passed" on The Lovely Bones (and this does seem to be the case), then consider Ryan Gosling a major upgrade of a second choice. Don’t take this as a slight against Jackman; he’s a fine actor who just turned in the best performance of his career a year ago in The Fountain. But Gosling is something else. He is on a very short list of actors whose very participation in a film qualifies it as an event. And even if the movies fall short of brilliance (which is true of every single picture he’s appeared in), Gosling is never less than fascinating and, more often than not, a marvel to behold. His ability to inhabit characters is eerily Brando-esque; in the flawed Half Nelson, he makes one bold choice after another until the line between performance and reality is blurred to the point where you’re actually worried for his mental well-being. And that, my friends, is what makes him a prospective all-timer. When you can manage the illusion of recklessness while maintaining complete control, the only impediment is yourself (as Brando, Mickey Rourke and Larry Storch sadly demonstrated throughout their careers).
Enough fawning. Some of you might be puzzled by the casting of a twenty-six-year-old as a father of three (whose eldest is fourteen, which means ol’ boy was hittin’ thirtysomething skins at the age of twelve), but Gosling proved in The Notebook that he can play septuagenarians like it was nothing (and look a ton like Jim Rockford in the process)! Though Rachel Weisz, who’s been cast as the mother, is nine years his senior, Gosling’s got the chops and the old soul to even the age disparity. I think he’s perfect for the part; provided Jackson directs the piss out of this very special script, this could be his first great performance in a genuinely great film. That’d be nice.
If you want to know more about The Lovely Bones, here’s a link to my Crop Report on the screenplay (which is still one of the best I’ve read this year). Speaking of Crop Reports, I have a very interesting one headed your way tomorrow. Let’s just say it doesn’t take a Brain to figure out that it’s hardly a-number-one material.