With its seismic $275 million opening weekend in the rearview mirror, Barbie has undoubtedly introduced the world at large to the comedic genius of Ryan Gosling. Standing out in the technicolor Dreamland conjured by director Greta Gerwig was never going to be easy, particularly when vying for screen time against the magnetic Margot Robbie, but he handled the assignment with ease. In our Barbie review, we noted that the film "shines whenever Gosling is on screen" – a result of his presence, his temperament, and his timing; anchors in a world eschew. Some are already calling for Gosling to be handed a 'Best Supporting Actor' Oscar nomination for his turn as Ken.
That's fair – he was robbed of Academy Awards a decade apart for his performances in Half Nelson and La La Land. But if the kinetic Kenergy that Barbie has spawned results in anything, I hope that it's a sequel to one of the best (and most overlooked) movies in Gosling's wide filmography: The Nice Guys.
I had to question the mermaids
There's a good chance that you haven't heard of The Nice Guys. The film reportedly drew just $63 million at the box office against a budget of $50m, a delightful neo-noir buddy action comedy that was silenced by the whirring gears of the franchise machinery: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Star Trek Beyond. The truth is, it was director Shane Black bringing the talents of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling together in an erratic love letter to 1970s Los Angeles that should have defined cinema in 2016.
As we noted in our The Nice Guys review, Gosling is a revelation. His turn as Holland March, a bumbling private investigator who wears the hell out of a torn cobalt-blue suit, seems almost quaint when held up against the roles that followed – Officer K in Blade Runner 2049 and Neil Armstrong in First Man. But in The Nice Guys Gosling muscles out the space to flex his comedic talents alongside the enigmatic Russell Crowe, and the results are mesmerizing. Fast-paced and truly funny, it's one of the best buddy cop movies of the modern era. One of those perfect storms that deserved an audience rather than cult-classic status.
I often find myself drawn back to The Nice Guys just to get a little taste of its world – Richard Bridgland (production design), Kym Barrett (costume design), and Philippe Rousselot (cinematography) so brilliantly capture the glitz, glamor, and surreal decay of LA in 1977. But I always stick through the 116-minute runtime for the powerhouse performances. For Gosling's squeaks and squeals as he tumbles off roofs and into truly absurd confrontations; his playful mannerisms as he dances between rapid-fire confrontations with Crowe and the role of doting father to a wayward teenage daughter; and his impeccable comedic timing and physical delivery, best displayed as Gosling wages a losing battle with a bathroom stall door.
The Nice Guys puts me in a difficult position. While I'm usually loath to advocate for sequels over original studio productions, particularly in an environment where the box office has been so truly dominated by the serial-like nature of the best Marvel movies, there is still so much potential in the core concept. There are other adventures for Gosling's March and Crowe's Jackson Healy to embark on, seedier sides to Los Angeles to explore, and a plethora of scintillating shenanigans for the duo to become enveloped in. Shane Black certainly seemed to think so, as the film concludes with (spoiler warning) the pair advertising their own private detective agency. It's criminal, really, that The Nice Guys hasn't evolved in a fashion similar to Steven Soderbergh's Oceans reboot, or more recently Rian Johnson's Knives Out concept.
Oh, that's a lot of blood
As Greta Gerwig's comedy dominates at the box office, we look at the complete history of Barbie movies that didn't make it
Gosling has been gracing our screens for 30 years. In that time he has become something of a chameleon – not unlike another favorite of mine, Jake Gyllenhaal, who also has a hidden propensity for comedy. Gosling has no problem ricocheting between genres – the tonal disparity you'd experience weaving between Blue Valentine, Drive, The Big Short, and The Notebook in a single day would be maddening – but his ability to work as a comedic actor is underappreciated. There's been flashes of his brilliance in this discipline over the years, in his turn as a suave playboy in Crazy, Stupid Love to a smattering of appearances on Saturday Night Live where his breaks have become legend. But The Nice Guys brought it all to the fore even if audiences weren't there to see it – thankfully, Barbie has pushed Gosling's comedic strengths straight into the spotlight.
Given Barbie's runaway success and the universal praise for Gosling's part in it all, I have to imagine that he'll have his pick of Hollywood projects. The Nice Guys definitely deserves a reappraisal – it's one of the best Netflix movies in the US and one of the best movies on Amazon Prime in the UK – but more than that, it deserves a sequel. In Barbie, Gosling has shown the world that he's one of the best working comedic actors around, and The Nice Guys 2 (anchored once again around the charismatic dynamic of Gosling and Crowe, and the seamy setting of '70s Los Angeles) could show that there's space for R-rated comedies with serious star power behind them in this challenging box office landscape.
Distracted by Ryan Gosling's mesmerizing outfits? Here's every one of the Barbie Easter eggs that you might have missed.