Lars and the Real Girl

September 29, 2008

When I first read about the premise of Nancy Oliver’s Lars and the Real Girl, I immediately wrote it off as a gimmick. Yet upon the recommendation of my mother, I loaded it up in the Netflix queue and watched it last week. I have to say it was one of the most original and touching films I’ve seen in a while.

The story centers around a young man named Lars, played by Ryan Gosling (one of the most talented young actors out there), who has difficulty interacting with his family and others in his close-knit community. Lars lives in the garage behind the home he and his brother Gus inherited from their father and repeatedly turns down offers to socialize with Gus and Gus’s wife Karin. One day, Lars shows up at their doorstep eager to bring over a girl named Bianca that he claims to have met on the internet. Gus and Karin are ecstatic that Lars seems to have finally come out of his shell, until they come to find that the girl Lars is speaking of is in fact a doll that he ordered off an adult website, built to his own specifications.

At this point, the film could have gone completely over the top, sought cheap jokes or turned offensive. Yet somehow, it managed to pull back and remain completely human at all times, no small feat considering the storyline. When the town doctor advises Gus and Karin, and the community at large for that matter, to act as if Bianca were a real woman, they do so begrudgingly at first. Gradually, their efforts bring them closer together, all out of their love for Lars. It sounds cheesy, and at points I couldn’t believe that I fell so hard for such a seemingly ridiculous film, but it really works. It’s one of those movies that, had I watched it with a group of friends, I would have pretended that I wasn’t about to well up at certain points. You know how it is.

If you’re looking for a genuine film and one that believes people are capable of doing good in a time when the world is going down the shitter, check out Lars and the Real Girl.

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Manhattan

April 9, 2008

Ever since I signed up for Netflix, I’ve been on a classic movie kick. Thus far I’ve burned through La Dolce Vita (sexy as hell), Rebel Without a Cause (Jimmy Dean is more whiny bitch than rebel) and Bonnie and Clyde (Faye Dunaway was a fox). But the film that struck a chord with me the most was Woody Allen’s ode to the Big Apple, Manhattan.

Allen’s 1979 romantic-comedy tells the story of Isaac, a 42 year-old divorcee who is dating a 17 year-old high school girl (hmm). His lesbian ex-wife, played by a cold-as-ice Meryl Streep, is writing a tell-all memoir about their ill-fated romance. The story revolves around these and other dysfunctional relationships between uptown intellectuals. As a result, the screenplay is full of obscure academic references and esoteric vocabulary, but is brilliantly written nonetheless. But the reason I enjoyed the film so much is that the main character is Gotham itself. Allen’s use of stark black and white photography captures the city beautifully…It’s almost as though New York was meant to be viewed in shades of gray. The cinematography, combined with a jazz soundtrack highlighted by George Gershwin reminded me why I love the city I live in.