What’s interesting about both these films is that they are written by women, and have male characters who are actively pursued by women, whilst the man generally puts in little to no work. In my experience, a woman will make herself available, but then tend to move on. In my experience guys are the ones who will nurse a crush long past its sell-by date. In my experience women want men to act like men and man the fuck up. Maybe this is different in super small towns, and maybe this is different when dudes look like Ryan Gosling. But I’ve seen resentment from rebukement set in as fast as a millisecond.
It tends to be a masculine fantasy to have a chick who will pursue you, or wait around for you – and it’s no surprise that cinema has capitalized on this fantasy. I’ve long felt that it is more romantic to have someone say “I’ll wait for you” than “I love you.” The latter is a platitude, the former takes a stronger commitment (note: if I rip myself off and put said sentiment in a movie, my not-so-secret identity will be revealed, or – conversely – a chewer will be a biter). So the question these screenplays ask is: Do women want to be the pursuer as well in their fantasies? Do they want to wait around for a dude to figure it out? I guess the flip side of this is that if you feel unworthy of someone then that they finally come around to you is a universal thing, though men win this by aggressive perseverance (which in films tends to end with the zen-like “getting of prized possession only to realize you don’t want it” moment, and in real life is the dude who gives the rap and wears a woman down over the course of a night) and women win by passive-aggressive perseverance (the mousy girl who gets the man by being around long enough to be noticed, and realized to be the one true thing, or in real life is a last call winner/loser/winner). Perhaps the truth is that a woman who pursues a man to the point of whatever, the relationship is doomed to failure partly because the roles have been reversed, and sets up a problem that is likely irremediable. Or not, if the dude can act like a dude when called on to be dude. If in both cases, pursuit is on both sides, hence love qua matched desire. Perhaps that’s why Juno succeeds whilst Lars fails. Lars is more fantasy in the sense that the entire town and everyone around is waiting for Lars to figure it out. This might have been more appealing if Lars was dealing with a real emotional pain other than not being able to accept becoming an uncle. It becomes about indulgence. Dealing with grief through fantasy is acceptable. If you have to transition your real pain through a surrogate, everyone understands that. If you have to transfer fake or unrealistic pain through fantasy, you’re just a loony. And not in the “we’re all nuts” sense, you need, you need to have your bullshit beaten out of you (not in the literal curb-job sense, but in a curbing sense). Whereas Michael Cera’s character is just shy and awkward like a teenager, and so maybe their relationship has a chance. The ending of Lars and the Real Girl is horrific. He may have put his Real Doll away, but if that’s how this guy works through his issues, then what happens when it gets bad. Or, more to the point, what happens when it gets good?
Arguably, Ryan Gosling isn’t good in this film, because – though he makes the character believable – he doesn’t necessarily convince you that he’s just working through some stuff because there’s no moment (on his or the film’s part) that acknowledges that. Perhaps that would break the spell, but there is no spell to be broke. This isn’t some Yoda puppet that you buy, this isn’t King Kong, this is the film’s reality of reality, not film reality. And so the metaphor is lost if the fake thing is fake. Cinema only works when the fake thing is real, or the real thing is fake. Even the Real thing being real offers doubts of it’s reality in fiction (Snuff, porn) – and doing it for real only makes it more jarring.
Which makes me wonder what Brecht would do with real fucking or real killing. Probably nothing.
A new home awaits you. — By Travis Newton