FILM: Talent to Believe

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Despite his humble beginnings — as a Mouseketeer on The All New Mickey Mouse Club — 26-year-old Ryan Gosling has since established the sort of career most actors would envy. In the past few years, he's been able to move between mainstream hits (2004's The Notebook) and acclaimed indie fare (2003's The United States of Leland), even earning a Best Actor Academy Award nomination in the process (for last year's acclaimed but little-seen Half Nelson). Up next for this Canadian actor is the thriller Fracture, co-starring Anthony Hopkins and set for release later this month.

For an early peek at this emerging talent — post-Mickey Mouse Club but before his current run — rent the 2001 drama The Believer. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at that year's Sundance Film Festival (beating out, among others, Memento, In the Bedroom and Hedwig and the Angry Inch), this absorbing drama quickly found itself swept under the carpet after no studio proved brave enough to release it. Acquired by Showtime, the film finally premiered on cable before being screened in a smattering of cities here and there (it was brought to the Queen City by the Charlotte Film Society).

Sparking memories of Edward Norton in American History X, Gosling delivers a magnetic performance — too magnetic, some might argue — as a self-loathing Jew who becomes a persuasive speaker for the Neo-Nazi movement even as he still finds himself struggling against his upbringing. Loosely based on a true story, The Believer isn't about the banality of evil as much as the personality of evil and how it merely takes one measured (if misguided) voice to sway mindless multitudes. And with this stellar performance, Gosling was off and running.

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