Lars and the Real Girl
If I tell you that this movie is about a man whose mental breakdown takes the form of a delusion wherein he believes that a realistic sex doll is his actual living, human girlfriend, well, you can probably expect that it's a bit, well, weird. And it comes as no surprise when I tell you that there are a number of very uncomfortable moments as he takes his "girlfriend" to church, to a party, to dinner at his brother and sister-in-law's house. On the surface, it doesn't seem like the kind of movie that I would like. I mean, beyond what I've already said, the movie really stretches credulity with the way that this man's community plays along with his delusion, that one woman even maintains her crush on him (this is the other figure that I believe the "Real Girl" in the title refers to). But if the story isn't quite right, the performances really are. Ryan Gosling, who plays the delusional title character, is rapidly cementing his position in my mind as one of today's best young(-ish) actors--and considering how much I hated The Notebook, I think that's quite an accomplishment. His performance in this film was just amazing. I also always like Emily Mortimer, and Paul Schneider also handled his role quite well. Patricia Clarkson's performance wasn't exactly breathtaking but what I noticed is that she seems to have a good range as an actor--her wise, maternal character in this film is nothing like her part as the irresponsible, hippy-ish aunt on [i]Six Feet Under[/i]. I really appreciate that sort of unpretentious competence in a character actor. Lars and the Real Girl is not one you need to rush out to see--I'd say you can safely wait and rent it--but if you're looking for an offbeat film with some great acting you might consider checking it out.
Viewed: 10/27/2007 | Released: 10/24/2007 | Score: B-
Dan in Real Life
I think I've liked just about everything I've seen Steve Carell in over the past few years and Dan in Real Life is no exception. It's not really surprising anymore to see comedians make the leap to more dramatic roles, some with more success than others. What's great about Carell is that he has a good feel for balance such that his performances never feel inappropriate, over the top, or self-indulgent. So, certainly, this movie has that going for it. Even more than Carell, though, what I really loved about this movie was the feeling of family that it evoked for me. In so many "family reunion"-type films the plot is driven by either a newcomer trying unsuccessfully to fit in (e.g. Meet the Parents or The Family Stone) or by dysfunction or in-fighting (e.g. The Royal Tenenbaums or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). What felt so refreshing about Dan in Real Life was that the family, despite at times being annoying or intrusive, genuinely loved each other and tried to do right by each other. It really made me nostalgic for the vacations my own family took when I was a kid. Overall, the film was both funny and touching and I really enjoyed it.
Viewed: 10/25/2007 | Released: 10/25/2007 | Score: A-
The Darjeeling Limited
I was pretty excited about this one, being a fan of Wes Anderson and not having had a new one in three years. I think that this one wasn't his best but I did like it quite a bit. In some ways this one covers a lot of the same ground as The Royal Tenenbaums--an absent parent, three damaged siblings--but even though there was still definitely the trademark Wes Anderson ridiculousness to The Darjeeling Limited, I think that this one was ultimately heavier and, perhaps, more personal. I think that all of Anderson's films have moments of real emotional depth but they're usually somewhat fleeting, which works really well by giving the films a little more substance underneath the silliness. In this one, though, there's at least one long stretch of the movie where the silliness is completely abandoned. I don't know whether that makes it a better or worse film but it certainly felt different to me. The performances were, as usual, odd and idiosyncratic but also wonderful. The one thing that made it a little uncomfortable for me was the juxtaposition of Owen Wilson's character with the current emotional trouble he's been having--at many points I found myself feeling genuinely bad for the actor rather than the character. In any case, I do recommend this one, with the one caveat that if you haven't seen any of Anderson's previous work, this may not be the best one to start with.
Viewed: 10/11/2007 | Released: 10/25/2007 | Score: A-