Ryan Gosling smiling in The Fall Guy

The Fall Guy Cements Ryan Gosling as Hollywood’s Cool Uncle

Who is your “Cool Uncle?”  Maybe he rides a motorcycle or works as a chef. He defines cool when you’re younger. With the double success of Barbie and The Fall Guy, Ryan Gosling is America’s new Cool Movie Star Uncle.

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What is the Cool Movie Star Uncle? He’s very different from Movie Star Dad, who has to have gravitas on screen but also pick fun projects — one of which has to be a blockbuster. Tom Hanks was the indisputable Movie Star Dad for most of the ’90s, for example. Now, I’m not sure who it is. Oscar Isaac had it for a bit around the time Dune came out, but with Fantastic Four on the horizon, I think Pedro Pascal is hot on his heels.

Movie Star Uncle is more fun than reliable. They probably have lots of Oscar nominations but no wins, like Willem Defoe. You get to know him through his blockbusters and follow him to his smaller projects, like Matt Damon, who is more of a Movie Star Dad these days. Mark Ruffalo could make a case for Movie Star Uncle, but like a lot of the Avengers, he can’t escape the gravity of the MCU. 

This is why Ryan Gosling is in the best spot to be our Cool Movie Star Uncle. He, somehow, completely avoided the superhero boom. Despite being in the public eye for most of his life—he started as a Mouseketeer in the ’90s—he doesn’t have any big bombs, or at-the-time hits that are now kind of embarrassing, or public gaffes. He’s been in a stable relationship with Eva Mendes for years—they have two kids—and they met making The Place Beyond The Pines, one of the many cool indie crime movies he’s starred in over the years. 

Gosling arrived in Hollywood with The Notebook, so many people have a 20-year relationship with him. Only two years later, he proved his acting chops with his Obligatory Drug Addiction Movie Half Nelson. He settled into a comfortable routine of making weird indie movies like Lars and the Real Girl until he starred in Drive in 2011.

Drive shouldn’t be cool — it’s trying very hard to be cool — but it is. The soundtrack, the colors, the twisty 1970s thriller plot, the acting, the jacket. That jacket should be stupid. That jacket is stupid. But in this movie, it works. Drive represents a major change in how audiences thought about Gosling. He wasn’t just a sensitive boy. He was the kind of actor who could have a romantic kiss in an elevator right before kicking someone to death.

It should have gone off the rails for him right there. 2011 was when the MCU hit the afterburner. It’s easy to imagine a world where Gosling is cast as Star-Lord, Doctor Strange, or Ant-Man. He’s expressed interest in playing Ghost Rider, but casting him in the MCU now is very different from 15 years ago.

Gosling spent the 2010s doing what he does best: picking great projects. Well, mostly — the less said about Gangster Squad the better — but he managed to escape his duds more easily than most. The Nice Guys, First Man, and Blade Runner 2049 are all incredibly well-made movies by unique directors, and his performances in them are all so different. The fact he seemed destined to coast along, raise his kids, and occasionally act in one of the best movies of the year seemed like a pretty great career to settle on.

And then Barbie happened. Greta Gerwig has said that Gosling was the only choice for the part, “Who else could do this?” She told Rolling Stone, “It’s some combination of Marlon Brando meets Gene Wilder meets John Barrymore meets John Travolta.” Gosling was reluctant to take the part, but it’s obvious he made the right decision, and he’s used the success of Barbie to catapult himself to the position of Cool Uncle Movie Star. I mean, have you seen his Oscar’s performance?

Directed by John Wick co-creator and former stunt man David Leitch, The Fall Guy is a love letter to stunt performers—”stunties,” as they’re called in the film. There is a line in the movie where Gosling’s stuntman character Colt is asked if they give out Oscars for stunts — he says no, and the movie is part of a years-long effort to change that.

Just as Gosling used his star power to elevate Gerwig and Margot Robbie while promoting Barbie, he’s spent the last few months pushing his own stunt performers into the spotlight. He seems more interested in his peers winning Oscars than winning one himself: when Robbie and Gerwig were both snubbed for individual nominations, he wrote an open letter about it

It’s a very Cool Uncle thing to do to downplay his own success and rise up the people around him — anyone who’s been tossed a wink and a pat on the back can attest to this. That’s how it feels to watch The Fall Guy, it’s like a home movie made by your Dad’s Brother’s friend celebrating their recent frisbee golf tournament win. 

It’s the opposite of Drive: it’s not trying to be cool. It’s just showing you cool stuff and being like, “See?” with a big grin on its face. It’s so sincere and boisterous and, yes, just a little bit lame, but the celebratory cringe is infectious. If you don’t like it, whatever! The Fall Guy will just slap you on the back, laugh a little too loud, and crack open another beer. 

(The Fall Guy was shot in Australia and has a chaotic energy that anyone who’s spent any time around Australians will immediately recognize. The movie’s tagline should have been, “Get over yourself, mate.”)

With The Fall Guy, Gosling gets to kick ass, jump off stuff, and be funny. He’s not trying to be cool, and that effortlessness is what makes him cool. He’ll chide you when you’re being a dumbass, like when he told Simu Liu not to touch him on the red carpet, but he’s not gonna ground you like your dad would. He’s too old to be your friend and too young to be your boss. He’s your cool uncle. And he’s also a movie star.

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Colin Munch
Colin has been writing online about storytelling in movies, TV, and video games since 2017. He is an actor, screenwriter, and director with over twenty years of experience making and telling stories on stage, on the page, and on film. For The Escapist, he writes the Storycraft column about, you guessed it, storytelling in movies and video games. He's on Threads @colinjmunch