Monday, November 05, 2007


I never got around to talking about "Lars and the Real Girl," which I saw last weekend (or the one before?) and enjoyed quite a bit. It's not what you might expect from the premise (man dates realistic-looking life-size sex doll) but more of a real love story about a troubled young man learning to love and the small town that helps him. Ryan Gosling is just wonderful, as is the actor who plays his brother, another man struggling to connect emotionally, but in a more subtle way.

"Dan in Real Life" not only has a similar-sounding title, but also boasts a romantic bowling scene (as does "Across the Universe" and a recent episode of "Ugly Betty" - bowling is the new house o' love.) It's touted as the best romantic comedy of the fall, and "finally, and a comedy for adults," which means, as far as I can see, that there are no jokes about bodily fluids. (As far as I can recall.) I liked it because I find Steve Carrell nicely, naively charming, and the story is decently realistic, with people behaving more like people than movie characters. I am, however, completely bowled over (c'mon, let me have that one), by the way Dan's extended family is portrayed in the film during their annual end-of-summer trip to the family vacation home. Have you ever gone on vacation with your family? Especially when there are kids involved of multiple and overlapping ages. In this family, the groups split into male vs. female to race to finish a crossword puzzle. After dinner, naturally, comes group games like charades. In the morning, everyone assembles on the lawn for group aerobics. And, to cap it all off, an annual talent show in which everyone participates! In my family, which is notably smaller, we're lucky if we can assemble around the Christmas tree at the same time to open gifts. (It usually takes some degree of pre-negotiation that addresses conflicting children's bedtimes, the arrival of non-family guests, and when the dogs will be least likely to be disruptive.) Recently we tried a Boggle tournament, but I think we managed 5 people for 3 or 4 hands before it dwindled down to two of us. So, yeah, I did like "Dan in Real Life," but I lusted after his family life. If that's "real," then bring it on!

Last night I saw "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," a Sidney Lumet film starring Ethan Hawke, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Albert Finney, and Marisa Tomei. If you have heard anything about this film, you've heard that it's great, and believe me, it's all true. It's scary and fascinating and sad and bewildering. Hoffman is insanely good, and Hawke is mesmerizing. Even Marisa Tomei, playing her usual trashy hottie, shows enough depth to hush those who still question her Oscar win. It's at once a crime drama and a family tragedy, and does both brilliantly.

Side note: one actress has popped up in three films I've seen this past month. Amy Ryan plays one of Dan's sisters (or sisters-in-law - you really need to take notes at the start of that film or you never quite remember who is married to who or has which kids) in "Dan in Real Life," Ethan Hawke's character's ex-wife in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," and the kidnapped girl's mother in "Gone, Baby, Gone." A great deal of screen time for someone whom I had never seen before, and each of the roles are very different from each other, showing great range in someone I want to see more of.


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