As of press time, the 23rd Boston Film Festival was still shaping up, with 14 features scheduled, 18 documentaries, and 32 shorts, all screening at the AMC Loews Boston Common. (Check www.bostonfilmfestival.org for the latest information.) The expected guests include Jessica Alba and Dane Cook (both Good Luck Chuck), Alison Eastwood (Rails & Ties), and George Clooney, who this Saturday, September 15, will present Jerry Weintraub with a Lifetime Achievement Award in a gala at the Intercontinental Hotel (individual tickets $250). Here’s our take on three of the entries.
|The 23rd Boston Film Festival | Boston Common: September 14-21|
VIDEO: The trailer for Lars and the Real Girl
LARS AND THE REAL GIRL | 120 MINUTES | SEPTEMBER 15: 7:30 + 10 PM
To judge from this and the title of his movie that’s opening in theaters this week, Mr. Woodcock, I’d say Craig Gillespie is a one-gag kind of director. A withdrawn guy seeks love from a lifelike sex doll ordered over the Internet. Let the laughter and the tears flow! Ryan Gosling continues his slide down from The Believer (2001) as the title misfit, first seen clutching the baby blanket knit for him by his mother, who died giving birth to him. So much for motivation. Despite the concern of his sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer) and the come-ons of a cutie at work, Lars remains resolutely weird and introverted. Until, that is, “Bianca” arrives in the mail and becomes his platonic dream girl. Fortunately, Lars lives in a small town that even Frank Capra would find over-altruistic. Everyone indulges Lars’s delusion, setting up increasingly strained comic situations, and everyone becomes a better person. To see how a similar premise can actually touch the heart, check out Peter Cattaneo’s lovely, neglected 2005 film Opal Dream.
— Peter Keough
RAILS & TIES | 120 MINUTES | SEPTEMBER 16: 4 + 9 PM
Being the offspring of Clint Eastwood certainly has its privileges — how otherwise could a first-time director land the likes of Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden? In her sudsy debut, Clint’s daughter Alison shows a shaky hand behind the lens. As locomotive engineer Tom Starks (Bacon) watches his wife, Megan (Harden), waste away with cancer, troubled youth Davey Danner (Miles Heizer) comes into their lives following his mother’s suicide. (She jumped in front of a train.) It’s a web-of-fate life lesson that seems better suited for Lifetime than for the big screen. The treacly score by Clint’s normally competent son Kyle and the heavy-handed set-up don’t help. Still, Bacon, Harden, and Heizer add enough depth to their characters to steam up the film as it chugs along.
VIDEO: The trailer for Take
TAKE | 99 MINUTES | SEPTEMBER 19: 7 PM
Minnie Driver’s reputation is reinforced in writer/director Charles Oliver’s debut, which finds her not only playing Anna Nichols, a housekeeper and struggling mother, but also singing “Coming Back to Life,” the end-credit song that, yes, she wrote. At that point, however, it’s too late to resurrect Oliver’s downbeat drama — with its dual narratives and contrasting visual styles — from terminal mediocrity. Jeremy Renner (28 Weeks Later) sweats through the darker corners as Saul Gregor, a perennial loser drowning in gambling debt, and the portentous wild card is Anna’s 10-year-old son, Jesse (Bobby Coleman), the epitome of ADD. All three performers are remarkable, but long before their utterly predictable intersection, Oliver’s build-up to forgiveness in the wake of tragedy has lost its way.