The first edition of Complete Idiot's Guide to Bridge by H. Anthony Medley was the fastest selling beginning bridge book, going through more than 10 printings. This updated Second Edition includes some modern advanced bidding systems and conventions, like Two over One, a system used by many modern tournament players, Roman Key Card Blackwood, New Minor Forcing, Reverse Drury, Forcing No Trump, and others. Also included is a detailed Guide to Bids and Responses, along with the most detailed, 12-page Glossary ever published, as well as examples to make learning the game even easier.  

Lars and the Real Girl (3/10)

by Tony Medley

When I entered the screening room for this I was told the running time was 95 minutes, which thrilled me. After sitting for what seemed to be a very long movie that seemed to be going nowhere, though, I considered that maybe I had misheard. Maybe she said the running time was 95 hours, because that’s what it seemed like to me.

Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is a psychotically lonely man living in isolation in the small Midwestern town in which he grew up, avoiding human contact. He has a nondescript office job and lives in a garage apartment behind the home of his brother, Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer). It’s hard to comprehend why Lars is lonely because his lovely co-worker, Margo (Kelli Garner), clearly has the hots for him.

One day Lars introduces Gus and Karin to his new girlfriend, Bianca, who turns out to be a RealGirl, a custom-ordered, anatomically correct, life-size doll. The movie degenerates from there as Lars treats her as a real person. So do Gus and Karin, and everyone else in the town. They all support him and his “romance” and reinforce his delusion. He takes her to parties, dances with her, talks with her, argues with her. It is so ludicrous it is bilious.

If this were set up as a farce, a comedy, that would be one thing. But director Sidney Kimmel has filmed it sympathetically, to be taken seriously. There are some lines and situations that I imagine are intended for humor, but the plot is so depressing that I found nothing in the movie that was anything other than dispiriting. Lars is clearly deeply disturbed.

He’s treated by a family physician, Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), whose idea is to take him seriously, to the point of conducting examinations of Bianca and talking with Lars about her health.

There is one very good line in the movie. Lars asks Gus when he knew he was a man. Gus responds with a list that includes, “Admit when you’re wrong,” and “Don’t cheat on your woman.” I was so numb from watching this that I didn’t write them down, but these are the two I remember. I know a lot of people who are not adults if these are the rules, especially the first one. What Gus said is the only thing positively memorable in the film for me.

Despite the story, the acting is uniformly good, especially Gosling. I don’t want to give away the ending (except that it does, actually, end, which might be a surprise if you try to actually sit through this without expiring from terminal squirming), but to imply that a normal person like Margo could have a lifetime relationship with a guy as sick as Lars is ludicrous. In fact, that a normal person like Margo could even consider having a relationship with a guy this sick is ludicrous. The entire film is irresponsible. But maybe not as ludicrous as a film company spending RealCash to make this film.

October 10, 2007