This strange and irresistible film more or less begins with a Bunuelian idea: a smalltown man (Ryan Gosling), grieving for his dead mother, solves the problem of his lonely neurotic existence by ordering a full-size sex doll and then puts her forward to his family and close-knit Midwest community as his new, wheelchair-bound girlfriend. What comes of that for us is a queasy balance between ghastly comedy and devastating melancholy – we’re never instructed by the movie to react one way or the other about Lars’ blank-eyed insistence on the doll’s humanness, and every shot featuring “Bianca” is a masterpiece of painful farce. But then Lars and the Real Girl becomes something else: the focus imperceptibly shifts away from Lars-as-problematic-protagonist and onto the busily populated neighborhood around him, who for their own reasons accept Lars’ doll as a real person, and end up inadvertently allowing Lars to find an emotional escape hatch out of the impossible corner into which he’s painted himself. It turns out to be one of the most convincing and generous portraits of smalltown American life movies have seen in years, and still a portrait of adult lostness that hurts to think about. With Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider.
In this adaptation of Nick Hornby’s farcically self-pitying novel High Fidelity, John Cusack plays a going-nowhere record store owner and pop-music obsessive who, after his latest relationship collapses, takes the viewer on a tour of his past romances. With Jack Black and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
The loneliest lonely-man movie ever made, based on what you’d think would be an unfilmable John Cheever short story: Burt Lancaster is a Connecticut family man who, apropos of nothing, appears in a neighbor’s yard and dives into the pool. He proceeds to “swim” a long circuit of his rich neighbors’ pools, “going home,” as he says. The Swimmer is a journey that reveals along the way what the pool-owners already know: that this buoyant, athletic guy has nowhere to go.
The concept of the “femme fatale” was old hat when James M. Cain wrote his vicious thriller Double Indemnity, but (with some help from this film adaptation, which was coscripted by Raymond Chandler and director Billy Wilder) he made the man-eating antiheroine into the dramatis persona of the postwar era.