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TORONTO ’07: “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Trumbo,” “Man from Plains”

TORONTO '07: "Lars and the Real Girl," "Trumbo," "Man from Plains"

I’m back in NYC and still trying to catch up with the blog. Here’s more thoughts on some of the films I saw at Toronto.

Craig Gillepsie’s “Lars and The Real Girl”

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When Lars (Ryan Gosling) orders a sex doll to fill the void in his lonely life, his brother and pregnant wife try to find the source of his delusions. The film, with a light, playful touch, offers a warm, humanist perspective and counters the general notion that small town Christian communities are intolerant and judgmental. The third act feels a bit forced and unrealistic, but with such well-meaning directing and acting, it doesn’t really matter. Patricia Clarkson offers a nicely restrained performance as Lar’s psychologist and the scenes between her and Gosling are particular well done as she carefully digs into what is causing his inner turmoil.

Peter Askin’s “Trumbo”

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Dalton Trumbo was one of the Hollywood screenwriters blacklisted in the 1950’s for refusing to acknowledge if he was a Communist while testifying before congress. As a result of Cold War paranoia that resulted in sacrificing liberty in the name of security, (Sound familiar?) Dalton was barely able to work for almost a decade. This documentary captures Trumbo’s life and wit during that time period by offering his personal and business writings in readings by actors such as Donald Sutherland, Joan Allen, and Nathan Lane. Trumbo had an amazing way with words, whether he was offering his thoughts on his isolation with a friend or thrashing his daughter’s principal for allowing other students to haze her for being a “commie.” Based on a play, the film nicely captures Dalton’s character and experience, but the performances are at times oddly captured with extreme close-ups of the actors, which made it difficult (for me at least) to focus on their interpretations of Dalton through is letters.

Jonathan Demme’s “Man from Plains”

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Demme’s latest doc follows President Carter on a publicity tour for his controversial book on the Middle East, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid.” Along the way we get new insight into the often maligned, Nobel Peace Prize winning President, and his thoughts on the complex relationship between Israel and Palestine. Carter comes off as an extremely thoughtful, intelligent person, and spends a lot of time defending his use of the term “apartheid,” which brings the book the attention he desires but also the hailstorm of criticism that he is anti-Semitic, which confirms how incredibly difficult it is to criticize Israel’s policies in the American mainstream media. The film also confirms that at least one reason Carter lost the 1980 election was his refusal to pander to extremist views and kneejerk reactions. (His response in the film to the handling of the Iran hostage crisis is particularly priceless.) As we’ve seen, a portion of the American voting public prefers their politics dumbed down and black and white.

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