As far as seasons go, fall is like the Jan Brady of the bunch: Whatever desirable qualities she might possess, they’re always obscured by her more appealing sister. Summer, summer, summer! It’s got the better weather, the more plentiful sunlight, the laissez-faire attitude toward clothing. Placed side by side, autumn literally pales in comparison.
In one respect, though, the colder months shine — because finally, after having Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer movies rammed down our throats all summer long, we get to see some real films. You know, the ones with human characters rather than, say, the Silver Surfer. Below are two of the season’s most promising offerings.
‘Lars and the Real Girl’
Now playing at Landmark E-Street Cinema
555 11th St. NW
Ryan Gosling’s entire post-2004 career seems a reaction to the fact that he starred in “The Notebook,” that year’s sentimentalist schlock-fest. The guy can’t be upset that he met the tasty Rachel McAdams on the set, but still, he’s better than that, and he knows it. And so he’s spent the bulk of the past three years playing difficult characters in films that major multiplexes may have missed.
There was the crack-addicted elementary school teacher of “Half Nelson,” for example, a role that earned Gosling an Oscar nomination. And now there’s the eponymous hero of “Lars and the Real Girl,” who manages to come across as sympathetic despite the fact that he’s deluded himself into believing an anatomically correct mail-order doll is his living, breathing girlfriend. (To Lars’s credit, it is a pretty hot doll.)
A lesser actor would be hopeless working with material like this. But not Gosling. The London, Ontario, native nails Lars’s every nuance, from his shy-guy mumble to his oddly endearing facial tic. It doesn’t hurt that the film boasts a great supporting cast, most notably a typically lovely Emily Mortimer. Make no mistake, though: This is Gosling’s movie. He can do more with a well-timed blink than most actors can with a full page of dialogue.
‘No Country for Old Men’
In theaters Friday
How best to capture in words just how exciting this movie looks? Let’s keep it simple: Coen brothers Joel and Ethan adapt a Cormac McCarthy novel, enlisting the help of freakishly talented cinematographer Roger Deakins and casting Javier Bardem as a sociopath whose weapon of choice is a cattle stun-gun. There’s a chance the projector might actually explode from awesome-overload.