Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Now Playing double feature: Lars and the Real Girl and Be Kind Rewind

I had not planned on watching Lars and the Real Girl. It's the story of a shy upper midwesterner who orders a life-size girl doll (yes, one of those), and carries it around with him everywhere, passing it off as his "girlfriend". However, when an octegenarian says "You must see this movie", well, I sit up and take notice.

The film is not crude. Indeed, it's sweet. Lars is so chronically shy, he can't even endure skin contact with another person. He's not insane; he's not dangerous. He's just deeply wounded and trying to process what it means to be an adult. As Lars goes through this delusion, insisting that this doll is a wheelchair bound child of missionaries from Brazil, the whole town rallies around, trying to help him by treating her as though she were a real person. The whole community engages in this elaborate fiction.... even to the point of giving this doll a life of her own separate from Lars's life. This gracious extension of love and imagination becomes the classroom in which Lars learns what it means to grow up from a wounded child into an adult who takes responsibility for doing the difficult things in life. Lars' brother also gets confronted with owning up to his own past failures as a brother and seeking forgiveness. All of it because the whole community rallies around Lars to offer love.

And this is why I make the connection with Be Kind Rewind. This movie was something of a disappointment. Mos Def and Jack Black work in an old video store, and through a bizzare series of events, Jack Black erases all the videos. They hurriedly try to re-film all the movies themselves. Watching these two morons recreate Ghostbusters is a riot. Soon the whole neighborhood gets involved in making the movies and enjoying the movies. When the copyright goons come in and shut down the operation, the two heroes understand that they can make their own film. They create a documentary about legendary musician Fats Waller .... bringing the whole neighborhood in on the act. It's a complete work of fiction, but the project of creating the fiction brings the community together.

In both cases, we have instances where the community gathers in an act of creative storytelling. In both, we have strange quirky characters who are both annoying and loveable. In both we have a celebration of community, togetherness, and a confidence that even in the face of tragedy or discouragement, the community can write a newer more lyrical reality.

It's very telling that Lars is shown reading to his real girl from Don Quixote, the great story of a man who created his own reality of being a knight errant, and he was more alive in his world of fantasy than he was in his world of reality. Quixote understood that the name a man chooses for himself is oftentimes more his own than the one he's born with.

It's an interesting trend in film.... parallel with the epic larger than life superhero films, we have these very homey films that focus on the community. These films help us reflect on such community oriented passages as Romans 12:4-5 "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another." -- come what may we belong to one another. Maddening though we are to each other, we are God's gift to one another. I Corinthians 12 hits at this as well "to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (v 7) and the whole chapter becomes a meditation on how the Spirit grants different roles and gifts within the body of Christ.

Strange and quirky as they are, these films help us reflect on what it means to live as the body of Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria