With friends like these ... | Bleader

With friends like these ...

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"Why so many women here?" my life mate and I wondered as we watched the audience filing in for a late-afternoon screening of Craig Gillespie's Lars and the Real Girl last Saturday at Landmark. Maybe it was the venue, or the preprandial starting time (as if that explains anything), or nonthreatening matinee hunkoid Ryan Gosling, or just serendipity. All we could do is speculate. Though by the movie's end, our own opposite reactions should have given us a clue (but no stereotyping, please—we're all enlightened here!).

"It's more than a comedy," Cheryl insisted in so many words, this tale of a delusional schmo with an inflatable girlfriend and the patronizing locals who help keep his fantasy alive. "Kind of a compressed metaphor for life. And look at the words you've been choosing: delusional, patronizing—already the argument's skewed in the wrong direction." Except they're the right words—and since when is it commendable to abet the self-deceptions of others, what in more pejorative language we'd normally call "enabling" behavior? "But their intentions are so noble and caring!" Like George Bush's in Iraq, anything to keep the missionary impulse pacified. But what becomes of candor and transparency, or—a more narcissistic consideration—"authenticity" and trust? Because once you've been patronized so shamelessly, can you ever find "truth" in what such obviously "caring" people are willing to unload?

"You're so damaged, always against doing good for others; why is it such a problem?" But how is encouraging a disconnect from common "reality" a good thing? Would the same individuals encourage Jewish friends to disbelieve in the Holocaust, or black Americans to ignore the inheritance of slavery, the better to invent a more accommodating script, improve the hygienic mental landscape? Likewise the divorced, the maimed, the crippled and abused, to pretend never to have undergone the experiences they have. Unfortunately there's a price to be paid for fairy-tale comforts as well as demanding "truths." "That's so male, to undervalue human emotionality and need. Talk about George Bush's macho posturing!" You're right, I'm feeling pretty Bush-like right now, embarrassingly so: "What this girly-man needs is some suck-it-up time in the military—army, National Guard, haw!" The voice of surrogate experience, which ought to be damning enough. But old gender allegiances keep cropping up, as hopelessly one-dimensional as ever ...

So I guess you liked the film a lot? "Not really—only it goes deeper, beyond the surface, as a story to be told and retold, than you'd think a comedy would." Which must be a good thing, since I hardly laughed once. But a lot of that's been going around lately ...

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