Pretty ugly. The visual shots are unpleasant, striking and otherworldly. Lost River, like the town itself, is the epitome of a barren wasteland. Littered with unusual characters, like the bank manager (Ben Mendelsohn) who proposes that Billy starts working for him in a disturbing club downtown. Or Bully (Matt Smith), a delinquent hoon dressed in his sparkiest gold sequin jacket spends his days traveling around in a car with a seat mounted on the top (like a throne of the worst kind). The haunting appearances of the scenery and the characters reinforce an eerie tone that permeates throughout the film.
Seen it before. By no means is the direction original, looking like a mash-up of directors that have perhaps influenced Gosling (ala Harmony Korine's Gummo) or worked with him (Nicolas Winding Refn ala everything he’s ever worked on). To create a directional debut that’s completely original is nearly impossible in today’s age. I will say that the writing inserts more dialogue and is much easier to follow if we were to compare it to visually similar Korine or Refn flicks.
Potential cringe averted. The actors completely do their characters justice. Without their total dedication to the strange environment, a town lacking in warmth and safety, the entire film would have missed its mark. The score (composed by Johnny Jewel) benefits Lost River and is the glue that cements the script, the environment, and the bizarre visuals together to make a movie that makes sense.