Gary Gilbert

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Margaret Review


Excellent
Shot in 2005, Lonergan's film spent six years in legal and editorial limbo. It may be overlong, but it's a powerfully involving exploration of guilt and self-discovery. It's also packed with astonishingly complex characters and situations.

Lisa (Paquin) is a Manhattan teen living with her single mother Joan (Smith-Cameron), an actress starring in her breakout stage role while seeing a new man (Reno). One day Lisa distracts a bus driver (Ruffalo), who hits a woman (Janney) in the street, an accident that sends Lisa into a spiral of sublimated guilt, as she lashes out in different ways at a nice classmate (Gallagher), her teachers (Damon and Broderick) and mostly her mother. And she doesn't stop there, meddling in people's lives in her effort to achieve a sense of justice.

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The Kids Are All Right Review


Extraordinary
Five of this year's best screen characters appear in this comedy-drama about a relatively ordinary family facing some unusual challenges. And while the premise seems extremely offbeat, it's actually beside the point.

Nic and Jules (Bening and Moore) have been a couple for more than 20 years, and life is pretty matter-of-fact for them and their two kids, 18-year-old Joni (Wasikowska) and 15-year-old Laser (Hutcherson). Since Joni is now of age, Laser talks her into contacting their mothers' sperm bank so they can meet their biological father. He turns out to be restaurant owner Paul (Ruffalo), a cool guy who shakes their life up in ways none of them could expect. The big question is whether they can ever be the same again.

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Henry Poole Is Here Review


Weak
Faith is a funny thing. What other aspect of one's life demands so much and yet typically yields such fleeting pragmatic rewards? Conviction is usually couched in terms of a higher power, but we also demand belief in ourselves and in our fellow man. In fact, what's clear about faith is that it penetrates far too many facets of our lives -- or, at least, that's what Mark Pellington wants us to see with his quirky character dramedy Henry Poole Is Here. While our hero is having a hard time facing the realities of his fleeting existence, his neighbors are more than willing to throw aside common sense for a glimpse of God's hand.

You see, Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) is dying. He has an unnamed disease which his doctor (Richard Benjamin) swears will "steamroll" through him. Hoping to reconnect with his past, Henry moves back to his home town. When he can't purchase his old house, he settles for a dilapidated number down the street. After he moves in, his nosy neighbor Esperanza (Adrianna Barraza) notices a watermark on his wall. To Henry, it's the sign of a bad stucco job. For her, it's the face of Christ. It's not long before the genial Father Salazar (George Lopez) arrives to conduct a Church-sponsored investigation. Even without confirmation, the smudge cures a little mute girl, much to her mother's (Radha Mitchell) amazement and helps a nearly blind girl named Patience (Rachel Seiferth) see. But the big questions remains: Will it help Henry? Or can anything?

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Garden State Review


Excellent
Even before he finds out his mother has died, Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) is depressed -- that much we can tell. His medicine cabinet is stocked with seemingly infinite amounts of antidepressants, which seem to mute his depression without addressing it. Although we are told he is an actor who has just finished a high-profile TV part (playing, as several characters recognize, "the retarded quarterback"), it's hard to picture him coming alive in his work; he barely says a word.

Garden State, an auspicious writing and directing debut from Braff (of TV's charming Scrubs), is about Largeman's return to his New Jersey hometown, and like Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, it's more about mood and moments than telling a single story (and like that film, it's about an actor feeling numb to the "real" world). Indeed, the plot feels very much out of short fiction -- and, we can't help but notice, possible autobiography; Braff is a young actor from Jersey, too.

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