Netflix Movie of the Week #6: Lars and the Real Girl

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Originally a film I wrote off under the impression it would be a crude, and likely bad, comedy due to its premise, Lars and the Real Girl is far from it, but instead is a touching and generally sweet film about a reclusive and strange, or perhaps eccentric, man and his fake girlfriend.  Extremely well-acted and written, Lars and the Real Girl manages to capitalize on a premise that could have created a terrible film in less capable hands.  Emotional, quirky and above all heartwarming, Lars and the Real Girl is an example of an excellent feel-good movie if there ever was one, and this week’s choice for Netflix Movie of the Week.

Staring Ryan Gosling in a vastly different role than fans have seen before, Lars and the Real Girl depicts the life of Lars, an extremely shy shut-in living in the garage of his brother’s house.  Unexpectedly, Lars purchases a Real Doll, a sex doll made to look like an actual woman, but instead of buying her for that purpose, Lars views the doll, Bianca, as his girlfriend.  He is seemingly unaware of the fact that she is a doll, as he pushes her around town in a wheelchair, has conversations with her, and is unwilling to accept the fact she is not real, leading people in town to speculate on his mental well-being   While I cannot emphasize enough how this movie succeeds with this premise, it is easy to see my hesitation about watching this film as it could have easily turned to a vulgar and cheap comedy based around a sex doll.

Oddly enough, this was the movie that made me recognize Ryan Gosling’s talents as an actor.  While I had seen other films he had been in, I felt he was often typecasted as the typical good-looking male lead. However, he does such a wonderful job in this film convincing the audience that he is a weird, awkward, and shy individual, while creating a very believable relationship with an inanimate object that I would be remiss not to admire his acting chops.  It would be hard for me to imagine another actor in this role after seeing the film.

Even if the premise is not enough to compel you to watch this film, I would recommend you give it a chance.  It is somewhat of a cult favorite with the indie movie going crowd and is that way for a reason, because it is good.  If nothing else, the movie is worth a watch to see Ryan Gosling trying something new in his acting career, and doing it with an excellent moustache.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

 

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Amour Review

Winner of the Palme d’Ore and Nominated for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film and Best Picture, Michael Haneke’s Amour is more than deserving of all the praise that is being lavished upon it.  Rarely do I leave a movie feeling as emotionally devastated as I did after my viewing of Amour.  Deliberate, uncompromising, and brutally realistic, in my eyes this film is nothing short of a contemporary masterpiece, as well as one of the most poignant films about mortality in recent memory, or perhaps ever.

Amour is about Georges and Anne, a two retired music teachers who spend their time appreciating the literature, music and life. However, when Anne’s health begins to deteriorate, the film shifts more towards and meditation on life and death as Georges is put into the role as full time caretaker for his ailing wife.  While the plot itself may not sound riveting, the execution of this film is superb, as the film full articulates its themes and ideas within the narrative.  Amour is full of beautiful yet minimalistic cinematography, as well as absolutely some of the best acting performances of the year from Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who is nominated for Best Actress for her role in the film.

This film in many ways feels more like a play than a movie. By that I mean the narrative feels very intimate, as there are really only two main characters and a very small number of side characters. Even with the small scope of the film, Amour manages to do what few films can, offer something so powerful that the message of the movie transcends its small scope and offers something much more universal, a story that nearly everyone will have to directly or indirectly experience in their life time.  This makes Amour is particularly notable in this area because of the strong effect the message has on its viewers.

Haneke’s true genius in Amour is not the film itself, but rather the emotions he is able to evoke in the audience.  His use of sound within the movie is deeply unsettling, as the film has no score where brief piano scenes are nearly the only instances of music in the film.  As a result, much of the film is ominously quiet, and all instances of sound feel very deliberate and impactful.

Amour is by no means a movie for everyone; it is a difficult film as well as a very depressing one, as it makes the view contemplate the true and ugly nature of human mortality.  That being said, the fact that a movie had this kind of impact should speak to the merit of this film, it is an absolutely incredible movie from and emotional narrative standpoint, and a movie that was clearly made by a capable director.  Though I fear it may set unrealistic expectations for the film, I can comfortably say that Amour was the best film I have seen all year.

Rating: 5 out of 5