As Katy says, just because it has a comic premise doesn’t mean it’s a comedy. No real jokes or laughs, at least not at our house. Pretty good movie, light entertainment with better acting than anything else (writing, camera work, etc). Blends a mental-illness drama with a small-town feel-good movie. Very little conflict… two times someone makes fun of the “real girl” or tells Lars it’s just a doll, and he pretends not to hear them. Brother and brother’s wife play along, whole town and psychologist play along, finally Lars has the girl get “sick” and “die” and then he meets an actual real girl and they go for a walk.

Producer John Cameron (no Mitchell) has worked on most Coen movies since Fargo, and also Rushmore. Oscar-nom writer Nancy Oliver worked on Six Feet Under. And our director also made the Billy Bob Thornton movie Mr. Woodcock, which I’m starting to suspect is also not a comedy. Cinematographer (also did Capote and Jesus’ Son) gives us basic, uncluttered compositions and moves subtly to handheld camera whenever there’s tension in a scene.

I liked the line when someone gives flowers to “Bianca” and Lars leans over and tells her it’s nice that they’re fake because they’ll never die. But one great line does not a best-writing oscar-nom make.

Lars: Ryan Gosling from the Half-Nelson movie I didn’t see. His brother: Paul Schneider from the Assassination of Jesse James movie I didn’t see. Brother’s wife: Emily Mortimer played Rufus Sewell’s girlfriend in the worst segment of Paris je t’aime (the one at Oscar Wilde’s grave). Lars’s co-worker and living love interest: Kelli Garner from starmaker film Bully, also in The Aviator. And the psychologist: Patricia Clarkson played leads in The Pledge and Station Agent, also in Far From Heaven and Dogville.

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Set in the near-future of summer 2008, which would’ve worked better had the film played more than a couple film festivals in its intended release year of 2006.

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I could go on and on summarizing plot strands and talking about story bits like Liquid Karma being harvested from the center of the earth and injected into Iraq war soldiers to give them psychic communication powers, TV ads that feature cars fucking each other, multiple sets of identical twins, triple-crossing double-agents in an undercover war between government spy corporations and the neo-Marxist underground… but it’s not worth recounting, really. I find the following bits more interesting:

1. The casting choices. Are they meant ironically, humorously, or meta-post-something? Admittedly some of these people are good actors, but it seems like stunt-celeb casting akin to Steve Guttenberg dancing in a reality show. These people actually appear in this movie:
– teen idols The Rock, Buffy, Seann William Scott, Mandy Moore & Justin Timberlake
– TV comedy vets John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz and Will Sasso
– SNL comics Nora Dunn, Cheri Oteri and Amy Poehler
The Princess Bride‘s Wallace Shawn
– Christopher “Highlander” Lambert
– The ghost expert from Poltergeist (now in her 70’s)
– Donnie Darko’s uptight teacher, but with an unpleasant fake accent
– Donnie’s dad Holmes Osborne
– Janeane Garofalo (somehow I did not recognize her)
– Kevin Smith in heavy old-man makeup
Mulholland Drive‘s Rebekah Del Rio (below)
– 80’s movie nerd Curtis Armstrong (Cusak’s wired friend in Better Off Dead)
– Miranda Richardson of Spider and Sleepy Hollow
– Bai Ling of Dumplings and Sky Captain

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2. Apparent product-placement for Bud Light in both the movie and the comic, and empty references/namechecks of Robert Frost poems and Robert Aldrich films and Philip Dick novels. A location called “Fire Arcade” could fit in this category as well.

3. The post-modern fractured storytelling aspect, complete with lots of internetty technology business in plot and presentation. Doesn’t work as well as it did in Redacted, and it remains to be seen whether this concept will ever work completely in any movie (a fixed-length linear medium) or whether movies should simply not try to emulate DVDs, CD-ROMs and websites. At least the story was told in chronological order (as was Redacted).

A scarred and blood-drenched teen idol, who must’ve shot a lot of scenes that got cut out of the picture since he never quite seems to fit in:
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4. The gall of this thing to exist, with its bad acting, big budget and mishmash story. It truly feels like Kelly was afraid that this might be his last film (it won’t – his Cameron Diaz and Cyclops starring follow-up with hardly any stunt casting is in post-production) and wanted to make it about every single idea he’d ever had all at once. Global warming! Internet privacy! Individual identity! The US perpetual war machine! Fart humor! Religion! If you want to be unkind you could say the fractured storytelling wasn’t even purposeful but just reflects Kelly’s total lack of focus on a single story or concept.

5. Commonalities with Darko (Kelly’s continuing obsessions with pop songs, 80’s culture, time travel and memory).

Parts of the comic, like the rapidly-growing baby and the bit about certain people evolving beyond the need to defecate are missing from the film except in coded messages. You poo too?
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But these are the most interesting aspects of a kinda uninteresting movie. I’d have to say the whole enterprise was a waste of time, time better spent watching Stephen Chow kick stuff in Royal Tramp II. At the end there is an explosion, a young guy who goes through a rift in the space-time continuum, and someone who is shot in the eye. Why would a studio pay $17mil for a crappy remake of Donnie Darko? Then there’s a line about the messiah being a pimp. This is the way the movie ends. This is the way the movie ends.