It all started with the movie LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, a comedy released in 2007, written by Nancy Oliver, directed by Craig Gillespie, and starring Ryan Gosling as Lars. What’s to say, this off-beat, quirky, and whimsical bittersweet comedy will have your mouth gaping with surprise, create tears of laughter that interfere with popcorn eating & emotions that will tug your heart.
Who knew you, the viewer, could bond with a shapely, attractive, female-missionary-plastic-sex-doll, named Bianca…….and she’s wheelchair-bound.
And then there’s Lars – Ryan Gosling’s character who is a man-child in need of help. He’s extremely awkward, emotionally wounded, and has created his isolation in the middle of others. One day he discovers the girl of his dreams on line (he orders her), his Bianca, she’s delivered and somehow he believes she’s a breathing human being…. their relationship begins.
After the initial reaction of – he’s lost his mind, thoughts his brother and sister-in-law, and the town as a whole agonize over, a decision is made, prompted by the town shrink (a mega-cool doctor) …..to go with the flow, accept Lars’ delusion and welcome Bianca as an alive gal, into their hearts as they try to help this kind, confused man work through his barriers.
The movie is funny with a little sad, bizarre and sweet with the theme being – human nature is inherently good when put on the line…it’s about stepping up to help heal another.
SPOILER – Gosling’s Lars makes absurdity believable as he heals, going from female-plastic to a real flesh and blood gal, waiting on the side-line. To this day, I’m not sure if Lars’ relationship with Bianca was ever consummated……
Bottom line – Ryan Gosling moved to be on my ‘always-to-watch’ list.
This takes me to THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES, starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes, and Bradley Cooper. This 2012 American crime drama, receiving critical acclaim, is directed by Derek Ciantrance (movie – BLUE VALENTINE), and written by Ciantrance, Ben Coccio, and Darius Marder. It tells a tale of 2 generations, connected by paternal actions.
A friend and I recently saw this film, rich with moral compromises and the legacy of sins passed to the next generation…..leading to a continuous, karmic collision and interweaving of 2 families (working class and upper class). Debts owed and debts paid.
The movie opens as we view Luke’s (Gosling) tattooed back and arms as he’s dressing and walking towards the arena to perform. He’s a regionally famous motorcycle stunt man at local fairs and worth the money. We watch a 3 cycle stunt that will pump your blood, magnetizing you to his character with his tantalizing presence. Critics have compared his Luke to James Dean in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and anything Steve McQueen did on a motorcycle. He’s that good, vibrating with the ‘it-factor’, and an authentic personal energy that draws the viewer. He’s also no hero, in a movie with reality to provoke your pondering, but no one to idolize. It’s basic nitty-gritty.
Eva Mendes’ Romina shines as an unenhanced, beautiful woman with an acceptance of life’s hardships, is dutiful, hardworking, non-aggressive but when put in a temper, has shown her fire.
Bradley Cooper’s Avery, born into a family of elevated status, the silver spoon yet a cop, has goals, radiates an integrity though not squeaky-clean. His life collides with Luke’s and the 2 families experience days of reckoning, events that herald doom, precarious balancing before a possible fall, attempts at righting wrongs and maybe, just maybe, events that go full circle.
There are galvanizing moments in this film (at different times) for all the main players. I’ll mention Bradley Cooper’s Avery’s son, as a teenager, has a face and unique energy that may catapult him into stardom and top notch future roles.
This bold, powerful, raw crime drama with no heroes, touches epic status, has a sterling cast and leaves me contemplating a bottom line theme – feel, deal, heal.