Friday, April 5, 2013

All the Feels: "Lars and the Real Girl" Movie Review

  I just watched this movie for the first time last night, and I have no doubts that it is on my list of absolute favorite movies. The reason I decided to watch it at all was because my creative writing teacher from my high school told us it was her favorite movie; it certainly sounded intriguing when she described it to us, and that she, a cute little old woman, would enjoy a film with such an odd description. So thanks to her for this, really.
  The most basic description, the one she gave us, really does the movie no justice. But here it is: basically, it is about an emotionally unstable man, Lars, who becomes delusional and has a caring relationship with a sex doll, and how the tight-knit town learns to embrace this odd situation.
  Now actually, that is a very accurate description of the movie. I guess why I say it doesn't give it justice is because of the "sex doll" part. That makes it sound a bit sketchy. First off, let me assure you, his relationship with the doll is completely innocent, and honestly, endearing. And second of all, I know what comes to mind with the term sex doll are well, blow up dolls (I should have predicted this paragraph would take a turn for the awkward...), but that's not what Bianca--yes, that's her name-- is. Basically, Lars finds out about this website selling realistic sex dolls through a coworker who usually watches porn. But like I said, a perfectly innocent situation unfolds in the movie. I just felt the need to get that settled before I really start analyzing the film.
  To Lars, this is his girlfriend. She is foreign (so she doesn't talk much), very religious (they don't even sleep in the same room), and she needs a wheelchair. Lars introduces Bianca first to his brother, Gus, and sister-in-law, Karin. Lars lives in a spare room by the garage of their house, which I believe is also the house they grew up in. Before Bianca was introduced to the story, it showed how Lars was fairly distant and alone, and how Karin was always trying to be friendly, inviting him to dinner and such. So when Lars tells them he has a girlfriend, they're excited, and then shocked when they meet Bianca. Luckily, Karin comes up with the idea of taking Bianca to  their family doctor, who is also a psychiatrist, who then has Lars and Bianca come back on a weekly basis. Karin and Gus also talk to their church and hope for acceptance, which they receive after some discussion ending in "the question we should always ask ourselves: what would Jesus do?"
Lars and Bianca. In case you were having trouble visualizing the lovely couple.
  Once Bianca and Lars attend church, news quickly spreads throughout the community and soon everyone knows about Bianca. And what's great is that everyone goes with it. As the movie goes on, the community not only accepts Bianca but embraces her completely-- she gets a job, volunteers, gets her hair done, etc.
  The person who has the hardest time with it is Gus, mostly because he feels partially guilty for letting his brother become so unstable without stepping in or even really realizing it. Over time Gus learns to accept the situation and opens up to his brother, and they have a great conversation about when they realized they were adults.
  Through this conversation and the conversations Lars has with the doctor, we find out about his past and family, as well as another issue that perhaps better justifies his delusion (I won't specify for the sake of spoilers). The doctor works to help Lars, but still sticks to her original proposition of letting the delusion play out on its own. And so it does, although as Bianca becomes increasingly involved in the community, she and Lars face relationship troubles.
  Throughout the film, another character plays a key role I have yet to touch upon. Margo, a coworker of Lars, is introduced with the obvious notion that she has a crush on him. Once Bianca is introduced, Margo too embraces her and accepts Lars with surprising kindness and no judgement. As the plot unfolds, Lars--first extremely wary of Margo--seems to grow fond of her. But again I must stop myself before the spoilers come.
  Alright, so that's your basic summary of the movie. Now let me recount to you my exact reaction after watching this film: I literally cried and laughed at the same time. I felt all the feels. Granted, I was alone in my dorm, I didn't feel the need to hold back or anything, so I just let the tears fall--and I'm not just saying a few tears rolled down my cheeks, no no-- I flat out sobbed. I let the end credits roll, playing the lovely soundtrack of the movie, and I sobbed. Whenever I would pause my sobbing for breath, I found a huge smile grow on my face. And that would just make me sob more. It was that amazing. Who knows how I'll contain myself if I ever watch it with people.
  So, what about it was so great? Let me tell you.
  First of all, if something gives me that much of an emotional response, it's just a given that the writing is superb. The characterization really brings the characters to life; the dialogue is beautiful while remaining natural and colloquial. And don't worry, the symbolism's there too. The movie just feels real.
  Alright, I might as well address this now-- the acting. Specifically, Ryan Gosling. This is by far, I mean by far, his best performance. Ever. And just to emphasize how big of a deal this compliment is, allow me to elaborate: I'm not a huge fan of Ryan Gosling. I feel like he's usually just type-casted as the hot romantic love interest or the studly manly man. Gosling is not hot in this, at all. He's not really even romantic. What is he then? Real. Oh my god, so real. And charming. His character is so charming and lovable, which just fits perfectly to understand why the town so willingly and easily embraces his issue--because you do too. Lars is such a lovable character, and Gosling portrays him perfectly. The other actors did a great job as well, but I just had to elaborate on how spectacular Gosling was.
  So the next thing I want to talk about gets a little complicated, and in order to explain it I want to give examples, which in turn will have spoilers. I will announce when the spoilers come, and when they end, so if you don't want to have spoilers then just pay attention to the bold-faced print.
  What really fascinated me about this story was that nothing bad happens. Now, I'm being very specific when I say bad-- sad stuff happens, of course (you already know I cried at the end-- this isn't a spoiler, people). But nothing horrible or traumatic has to happen in order for the plot and development and overall story to work as beautifully as it did-- in fact, that's what I think made it so beautiful, so real. Sometimes I think writers--especially with movies-- feel the need for there to be an absolute low point, one horrible distinct action, in order to move the plot of a story. But the writers for this managed to avoid that typical, overused tactic and let the story play out in a much more organic way.
Here are some examples that some might consider to be spoilers:

  • Margo-- I was afraid they were going to make her a bitch. Have her start spreading rumors around and becoming totally mean-spirited and rude towards Lars, but just the opposite happened. She was accepting of him and warmhearted towards him, and more beautifully than that--she treated him the same way after the situation as she did before--no judgement, just love. That's fantastic.
  • Lars-- I was afraid they were going to have him have a violent breakdown. Like if someone made the wrong comment about Bianca, that Lars would throw a punch. But he never did, and that's so perfect because that is so true to his character. Karin at one point blatantly states that he is a sweetheart and has never been violent-- for him to become violent would be out of character.
  • The bowling scene-- there is a scene where Margo and Lars are bowling, and some of Gus's coworkers show up and recognize Lars. I was so afraid they were going to give him a hard time and it would end badly. But it didn't. They just joined them in bowling, and it ended up being a very sweet and cheerful scene. It all the more demonstrates the way the community embraces Lars, and well, everyone-- it goes beyond Lars to show what a tight-knit town is like. That you can just join in bowling with someone and have a good time. I love that.
End of spoiler bullet points--you may read on now:

  That's about all, really. I've rambled for long enough, and all I can do now is highly recommend you see the film. It is on Netflix. And okay, there is one more thing.
  I understand why this film never got the popularity or credit I think it deserved, and maybe view this as the one piece of critical commentary I give the film: the pacing. It's a slow-paced film-- I personally don't mean that to have a negative or positive connatation, it's just a fact. The film is slow paced. The beginning takes awhile, and once you get into the real body of the story, it's still slow. It kind of relates back to what I said above--there is no real dramatic low point, so there's no rush to lead to one, if that makes any sense. I personally didn't mind the slow pacing, but I felt the need to mention it because I'm sure for some people that's a deal breaker (and that's fine--everyone has their own preferences). Still, the film is about an hour and forty-five minutes, and I recommend it so highly-- it is seriously one of my favorite films.
  Well, that's it, you guys. I hope you enjoyed my review and I would love to hear what you think! Let me know, and you'll hear from me in a week.



Friday, March 29, 2013

My Thoughts on Spoilers

  Before I start writing reviews, I figured it might be a good idea to talk about a big issue that can happen when talking about stories: spoilers. Now, I personally don't think spoilers are that big of a deal, and I'm going to talk about why. But before I get into that, let me just tell you that whenever I write a review I do my best to avoid spoilers, or at least warn when they occur so you can chose whether or not to read that part. I just wanted to clarify that.
  Now, how can I not be bothered by spoilers? They totally ruin a story! Here's a little secret: no, they don't. If all it takes is learning one single factor of a story to truly ruin it, then, sorry, but it wasn't that good of a story in the first place.
  Let me tell you a little anecdote involving me and a certain book you may have heard of: Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince. So when Harry Potter books were still coming out, I was about one book behind--basically, when Halfblood Prince (the sixth one for those who might not know) came out, I was just about finishing up the fifth one. I was fine with this because in my household, my mom would order the book online and once it came in the mail, she had a rule that since she paid for it she got to read it first, and this was always said in competition with my sister, who naturally wanted to read it as soon as possible. I, not being one for confrontation nor the pressure of having to read fast, liked not even entering in this competition for who would read it first--I could wait it out since I had just finished the previous one not that long ago.
  Well, for those of you who don't know, a lot of shit goes down in Halfblood Prince (oh yeah, if you haven't read it, umm, spoiler alert--since that's kind of the point of this anecdote...but I mean seriously, if you haven't read it by now you probably don't care, am I right?). A lot of shit that people sure are going to talk about. Let me just list to you, in order, the spoilers that I heard before reading this book: that Dumbledore died, that Snape killed Dumbledore, that Draco was supposed to kill Dumbledore but couldn't so Snape did it for him, that Ron hooks up with Lavendar and Hermionie's pissed about it. These spoilers happened over the course of maybe a week or two, and in frustration I said, "Why doesn't someone just tell me who the halfblood prince is at this point?" Not realizing my sarcasm, my sister just turned to me and said, "Oh, it's Snape."
  I thought the book was ruined for me. I talked to my mom and I asked her if she thought I should even bother reading the book. She did not hesitate for a second in her answer, insisting that I should still read it, that even knowing all that I did it was still worth reading. And you know what? She was right. When it came down to it, it didn't matter that I knew who was going to die and who was going to cause it-- I still was swept away by the story; there were still moments that hadn't been ruined; there were still times where I could barely set the book down, both in parts I didn't know about and parts I did.
Just a cute little comic I found a Pinterest.
  Point being, a truly good story is still worthwhile no matter what people tell you. A friend accidentally tells you that a character dies. So? You don't know how or when, the other characters' reaction to it, or it's significance in the plot. You somehow find out that a character is secretly evil. Read previous sentence, and add that sometimes evil characters turn out to just be pretending--there's still hope. You're shocked when you hear that two characters hook up? If it's not the two people you thought for sure were going to get together, then it's probably not permanent anyway; and if it is the two people, then you called it ahead of time anyway, pride yourself for your mad predicting skills.
  So that's what I think of spoilers. I hope it makes sense and that my anecdote helps prove my point. And trust me, that's not the only instance-- sometimes I even encourage spoilers. Like if I'm guessing who's going to die on one of my favorite shows, Downton Abbey, I want to know if I'm right-- I like knowing I got mad predicting skills (true story--and my prediction was right).
  Also, quick bonus thought-- when you know something that's supposed to be a big shock, it can be fun. You get to pick up on hints and small details that lead to it that you probably wouldn't have noticed if you didn't know the big shocker. So just look at it in a positive light.
  I never let spoilers ruin a good story, but really, I do understand the significance of going into a story without knowing anything--it makes it new and exciting and you get to discover everything just as the story intended for you too. And that's why in my reviews to come I do put forth the effort of not spoiling anything, and heavily warning whenever I feel that something I say could be considered a spoiler. Sometimes I poke fun at it a bit, but really if I ever do accidentally spoil something for you, I apologize ahead of time--maybe just think back to what I said in this post.
  I already wrote my post for next week because I'm so excited to share it with you-- it's a review of a movie I just watched for the first time the other week and immediately fell in love with. So look forward to that next week and until then, enjoy life you guys. Please consider following me by email and don't forget to feed the fishes at the bottom of the page!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Starting Anew: Idyllic Hummingbird 2013

 So I've been very busy--I still am, actually-- with college and what not, but lately I've been wanting to put my opinions out to the world. Since this blog has little viewership I thought about giving it up. I considered starting a YouTube channel. Then I realized not only do I have neither the proper camera nor editing programs to do a YouTube channel, but I just couldn't see myself really excelling at that. My strength forever remains in writing, and so I'm returning to my blog, with hopes of possibly gaining viewership and making more quality posts. Not that what I've done thus far is bad, it's just not very structured and honestly quite random. I want to try to be more organized in my postings from now on, and so here's the start to that. So, as for the blog archives, just consider 2012 as the old stuff--good for what it's it worth, but with hope of improvement in 2013.
 So what exactly am I going to change? Writing style wise, not much. I'm going to write the way I always have, with my charm and wit and whatnot (not to sound too full of myself, of course). Content-wise, lately I've been craving to write some reviews. Lately every time I see a new film or television show or whatever, I want to analyze it, critique, and quite honestly, spazz over it a little. So expect plenty of new reviews heading your way--hopefully I'll introduce you all to some great new stuff. Reviews is not the limit, though-- expect plenty more anecdotal posts, and exerts from my writings, and fun photos-- all the good stuff. The main change with those I suppose is that I'll try to make them more polished-- often before I just felt like slapping something on the page and posting it so it looked like I was keeping up an active blog. I'll try to be better about that this year.
 And now comes the hard part, for me anyways. Like I said, I'm quite a busy college kid. I think why I haven't posted this before now is because I was afraid I'd go on about how I'll get better about blogging and then drift off into the unknown, until you all assume I've died or given up on the whole blog. So, here's what I'll do: I plan on posting at least once a week. If that becomes too difficult I'll change it to every other week or something, but for now one post a week is my goal. I hope to maintain it.
 A few quick things-- I have a twitter, @idyllichumbird, follow me if you like. I don't tweet much (I actually think Twitter's pretty pointless) but if I get a bunch of followers or something I'll try to be better about that. Also you can now sign up via email to follow my blog (just look over in the side bar, above the "About Me" section), that's new and I'd love more followers. Finally I am considering getting a tumblr, but I know tumblr is kind of huge so I'm a bit intimidated to get one. Point being, it's still under consideration. If you have any thoughts on the matter, let me know.
 Last thing you guys: scroll to the very bottom of the page and you'll find something fun I just added.
 Have a good week; you'll hear from me again real soon.