SXSW 2015 Day 1: Ryan Gosling, Russell Brand No Show, ‘UNEXPECTED’ & ‘THE FINAL GIRLS’


BRAND_A_Second_Coming_Big_TopCole Clay & Preston Barta // Film Critics

Coming to SXSW can be a stressful and equally rewarding experience for patrons and filmmakers alike. This is an environment where only the carefully calculated filmgoers will survive.

SXSW is a festival that has generous blend of mainstream Hollywood films, with a dash of documentary and the ever-popular gourmet cuisine of independent cinema. Day one’s offerings weren’t too terribly crowded due to commutes and lengthy check-in stations.

Guillermo del Toro moderates a Q&A with Ryan Gosling on LOST RIVER.

Guillermo del Toro moderates a Q&A with Ryan Gosling on LOST RIVER. Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

BUT, the first was an appearance by “Hey Girl” himself Ryan Gosling (DRIVE), in a keynote conversation conducted by the master of macabre Guillermo del Toro (PAN’S LABYRINTH, PACIFIC RIM), promoting Gosling’s directorial debut, the critically panned yet intriguing film LOST RIVER.

It was a special event that approached Gosling with a more human approach than one would expect that casted his celebrity aside. The filmmakers spoke in soliloquy that provided a candid insight into the (now) multi-hyphenate’s process all the way from location scouting to casting. After the hour long conversation, the floor was open to SXSW attendee’s who praised del Toro for what he has done for Mexican cinema as well as Gosling’s daring first shot behind the camera.

Among the first slate of films screening were BRAND: A SECOND COMING, an intimate profile about the stand-up comedian turned human rights activist Russell Brand. In fact, Brand attempted to get the film pulled at the last minute. “I’m told the film is good, but for me watching it was very uncomfortable,” said Brand in a written statement.

Anders Holm and Cobie Smulders in the bittersweet UNEXPECTED.

Anders Holm and Cobie Smulders in the bittersweet UNEXPECTED.

Other films included Kris Swanbergs’ excellent human dramedy UNEXPECTED, starring Cobie Smulders, Anders Holm and relative newcomer Gail Bean. The film tells of two pregnant women who embark on an unlikely journey. Bean gives the kind of explosive performance that awards are made for. So much heart, soul and personality rings in UNEXPECTED. It’s simply delightful.

Closing out the evening was THE FINAL GIRLS, a send-up of 1980’s horror films starring Taissa Farmiga, Adam Devine, Malin Akerman, Alia Shawkat and Thomas Middleditch. Fans seemed to enjoy the romp, which garnered a rousing ovation as the credits rolled. And who can deny the enthusiasm of Todd Strauss-Schulson, as he reminisced to the crowd about past experiences attending the festival and the magic of waiting in long lines?

Other films unscreened were THE INVITATION (which we’ll see tonight), starring Logan Marshall-Green (PROMETHEUS) and John Carroll Lynch (SHUTTER ISLAND), and directed by Karyn Kusama, the filmmaker behind such films as JENNIFER’S BODY and GIRLFIGHT.

Stayed tuned for our daily recaps, interviews and film reviews curing your ailment for all things SXSW!

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction ( as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.