Archive for November 2007

Individualismo implícito en la literatura latinoamericana

November 27, 2007

Miro tus aguas que incansables corren,

como el largo torrente de los siglos

rueda en la eternidad… ¡Así del hombre

pasan volando los floridos días,

y despierta al dolor!…¡Ay! agostada

siento mi juventud, mi faz marchita,

y la profunda pena que me agita

ruga mi frente de dolor nublada.

(Jose María Heredía, “Niágara” líneas 105-112)

Para los latinoamericanos de la época colonial, el imperio español parecía ser un monolito con dominio sobre todos los aspectos de la vida.  España exigió los impuestos y la lealtad, sí, pero además requirió un modo específico de pensar, de adorar, y de vivir.  La gente de la región, pues, necesitó recuperar espacio mental del estado antes de hacer cualquiera cosa por libre albedrío.  Por eso, se puede ver un rasgo de individualismo en muchas de sus obras literarias.  En este ensayo, me voy a probar la tensión entre el individuo y la cultura y entonces demostrar cómo se manifiesta en algunas obras latinoamericanas.  Primariamente, notaré la actitud de Colón con relación a los indios porque su carta representa lo que los reyes, y los cortes castellanos del futuro, querían oír.  Entonces discutiré dos modos de resistencia mostrados en la literatura: vocalizar intencionalmente desacuerdo con la hegemonía del imperio, como José María Heredia, Andrés Bello, y El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, o desafiar el imperio sólo para vivirse como se quiere, como la Monja Alférez, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, y Gonzalo Guerrero de la historia de Díaz de Castillo.  Finalmente, trataré “El matadero” de Echeverría porque demuestra cómo el individualismo sigue teniendo importancia en el continente después de la salida de España.

Antes de discutir la cultura y la sociedad, es importante recordar que ellas no son organismos unitarios, como gatos o árboles: son ideas.  La sociedad no es más que un grupo de personas, y algunos académicos han dudado su existencia o a menos su utilidad para entender el mundo.  P. Kodanda Rao presentó este argumento hace sesenta años y teorizó que si fuera bastante comunicación entre el Este y el Oeste, todas las distinciones culturales diminuirían porque la gente, no las culturas, se mueven el mundo.  Edward Said, el autor de Orientalism, preguntó si la noción de cultura fue solamente un instrumento para auto congratulación y para fomentar hostilidad contra otros países (Brightman 511).  Robert Brightman, en su artículo “Forget Culture,” rechaza el concepto de cultura porque está llena de suposiciones cuestionables, incluso las ideas que una cultura es objetiva, integral, homogénea, coherente, discreta, estática, primordial, y representativa.

La Carta de Santángel describe algunos rasgos de los taínos – su timidez, su monogamia – pero Colón no pone nombre a ningún indio.  Esta negligencia de distinguir a alguien, y especialmente a presentar a alguien como ser racional, es un mal augurio para el futuro de las relaciones entre las razas a pesar del tono positivo del escritor.

Por el significado incierto de “cultura,” es fácil ver cómo el autor se puede distinguirse de sus contemporáneos culturales.  A la vez, la idea de la cultura está muy fuerte en algunas mentes, inclusa la de José María Heredía.  Rut Román escribe que en el poema “Niágara,” Heredía usa la estética de la naturaleza y el choque de las naciones para reafirmar su propia “yo,” una técnica muy romántica (40).  Ya hemos notado cómo el poeta se siente pequeño, desterrado, y marchito ante el Niágara (símbolo de España).  Juana Caníbal Antokoletz se nota en “A Psychoanalytic View of Cross-Cultural Passages” que Heredía recuerda las imágenes bellas de Cuba para sobrellevar su desesperación por la cambia de culturas por su exilio (40-41).  En la última estrofa, Heredía reafirma su identidad: es un cantor cuyos versos resonarán por la eternidad.

Según Ivan Schulman, esta búsqueda fue común a los escritores del siglo XIX en Cuba, Puerto Rico, y la República Dominicana, incluso José Martí (155-156).  Andrés Bello pide lo mismo de la nueva generación en su “Autonomía cultural de América”: “¡Jóvenes chilenos!  Aprended a juzgar por vosotros mismos; aspirad a la independencia del pensamiento.”  Sólo después de esta admonición exhorta a ellos educarse en los clásicos de la literatura latinoamericana.

El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega usa el captatio benevolentiae para ocultar la polémica de sus palabras, pero él afirma su individualidad en su obra, también.  Tiene tanto orgullo en la raza de su madre que la pone en su seudónimo de escritor, y en su libro dice: “Al discreto lector suplico reciba mi ánimo, que es darle gusto y contento, aunque [ni] las fuerzas, ni la habilidad de un indio, nacido entre los indios, criado entre armas y caballos pueden llegar allá” (Chang 68).  Por llamarse “El Inca,” él usa su identidad como un arma contra los prejuicios en los círculos académicos de España.

No obstante, siempre hay gente que a ella no le interesa la política.  Simplemente hacen lo que pueden para vivir en sus propios términos.  Un espíritu tan libre también puede repudiar el imperio.  La monja alférez, Catalina de Erauso, es un ejemplo perfecto.  Ella viajó de ciudad a ciudad, de mujer a mujer, se hecho pasar por hombre para conseguir su deseo de trabajar para el pan de cada día.  Su autobiografía no tiene ningún comentario social, y no alcanza las altezas de emoción como Heredía; es simplemente un diario.  Ella es quien ella es.  Su estilo de vida está totalmente afuera del normal, pero consigue él bastante para llamar la aprobación del papa.  No hay razón legítima para pararla.

Sor Juana no se abandona el convento y no se viste como un hombre, pero sí es dedicada a su vocación verdadera a pesar de las expectativas de su sociedad.  Cuando Sor Filotea implica que ella no es buena cristiana por estudiar tanto, Sor Juana responde que desde que alcanzó la razón, ha solamente seguido el impulso que Dios puso en ella para estudiar (3).  Entonces delinea las ciencias y cómo se pueden apoyar el entendimiento de las escrituras (5).  En su carta de Sor Filotea, Sor Juana nunca recomienda ni la destrucción de la sociedad ni de la religión que la persigue.  Por contrario, defiende sus actividades porque son esenciales a la identidad que Dios dio a ella.

El cacique Gonzalo Guerrero es el prototipo del latinoamericano quien elige la identidad sobre la comodidad cultural.  Él fue un soldado español perdido entre los indios por un naufragio, pero dentro de pocos años decide asimilar con su sociedad.  Se casa con una mujer indígenas, y ellos dan la luz a tres hijos.  Gonzalo labra la cara y perfora las orejas en el estilo de los indígenas.  Cuando los españoles llegan “rescatarlo,” él rechaza la oferta.  Según los españoles, esta decisión arriesga su alma inmortal, pero él ya se identifica con su familia más que su fe.  Quizás la línea más llamativa del episodio es cuando la esposa de Gonzalo llama los soldados españoles “esclavos” (Chang 40).  Aunque parecerían tener más poder militar, ya han subyugado sus personalidades al rey mientras Gonzalo vive de una manera elegida y única.  Su decisión de asimilar con otra cultura es sin embargo un ejemplo de individualismo: no tiene que actuar como español sólo porque es racialmente español.

Por todos estos escritores, los latinoamericanos desarrollaron una tradición de individualismo e independencia de la hegemonía española.  Estas cualidades no desaparecieron cuando las elites nativos tomaban la plaza de los elites extranjeros al cumbre de la pirámide social, como se ve en “El matadero,” escrito por Esteban Echeverría.  La cuenta es una crítica de la dictadura de de la Rosas, un argentino quien continuaba la esclavitud y el abismo entre clases preferidos por los supervisores españoles.  El autor contrasta los federales, una multitud sanguinario, con un toro noble y después con un unitario joven y valiente.  En los dos casos, el individuo, lleno con rabia por su tratamiento, lucha furiosamente para defenderse contra un público animal.  Eventualmente, sucumbe a la banda de linchadores, pero antes impresiona a todos de ellos.  Estos protagonistas, sean auto representaciones del autor, del unitarismo, o de nada, reivindican el poder del uno en contra del todo.

Un estereotipo de los Estados Unidos es que es el país del “Lone Ranger,” tanto en la cultura como en la ley, y que los latinoamericanos son más colectivistas y menos dispuestos a la libertad individual, como se demuestran por sus gobiernos.  Una encuesta de la literatura de la época colonial oculta esta idea.  Muchos de los escritores de la época colonial son preocupados por la libertad y los derechos del individuo.  Han tenido de ser porque han vivido en cadenas.  Me parece que otros datos causaron las diferencias políticas entre los EE.UU. y Latinoamérica.  Los EE.UU. siempre ha tenido problemas con la integración de los afro-americanos, una minoría de diez por ciento que vivía como ciudadanos de segunda clase año tras año; en Latinoamérica, el grupo oprimido fue una gran mayoría de la población, creando un reto mucho más extenso.  Por eso procede la ignorancia y la pobreza del pueblo y por eso el peligro de dictadura.  No obstante, las palabras y los ejemplos que los desafortunados necesitan para alcanzar su libre albedrío ya son escritos en la literatura nacional.  Sólo hay que construir más sobre esta fundación.

Obras citadas

Aginsky, Burt W.  Review of Culture Conflicts, Cause and Cure and East versus West, A Denial of Contrast by P. Kodanda Rao.  American Anthropologist 51.3 (1949): 493-494.

Brightman, Robert.  “Forget Culture: Replacement, Transcendente, Relexification.”  Cultural Anthropology 10.4 (1995): 509-546.

Canabal-Antokoletz, Juana.  “A Psychoanalytic View of Cross-Cultural Passages.”  American Journal of Psychoanalysis 53.1 (1993): 35-55.

Chang-Rodríguez, Raquel, and Malva E. Filer.  Voces de Hispanoamérica, Tercera Edición.  Thomson: Boston, 2004.

Inés de la Cruz, Sor Juana.  “Respuesta de la poetisa a la muy ilustre Sor Filotea de la Cruz.”  Proyecto Ensayo Hispánico.  <http://www.ensayistas.org/antologia/XVII/sorjuana/sorjuana1.htm&gt;

Román, Rut.  “Lo Sublime que desvanece.  La imagen poética del Niágara en Heredia y Pombo.”  Decimonónica 2.1 (2005): 40-54.

Schulman, Ivan A.  “The Poetic Production of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic in the Nineteenth Century.”  A History of Literature in the Caribbean by Arnold, Rodríguez-Luis, and Dash.  (1994): 155-166.

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Two sports notes

November 24, 2007

Tidings from the Bayou
LSU 28, Florida 24
Kentucky 43, LSU 37 (3OT)
LSU 30, Auburn 24
LSU 41, Alabama 34
Arkansas 50, LSU 48 (3OT)

I’m going to miss LSU. It has produced five unforgettable prime-time games in a single season, and in my opinion, that makes the Tigers the team of the year regardless of which Midwestern school wins the national title in January. Thanks for the drama, guys. The media may call you a disappointment, but you’re the reason people watch college football.

Tidings from Nippon
The Japanese baseball season ended in a remarkable fashion this year, and I’d like to tell you all about it. The Chunichi Dragons won the Japan Series 4-1 over the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters (sadly, Nippon Ham is the team’s sponsor, so they’re technically the “Fighters,” not the “Ham Fighters”). The Dragons’ 1-0 victory in the fifth and final game was unusual, though, because it was a combined perfect game. Starting pitcher Daisuke Yamai threw eight perfect innings, striking out six. The closer, Hitoki Iwase, then retired the last three batters for the save.A combined perfect game has never occurred in Major League Baseball, and for good reason: if a pitcher has retired every single batter, and he isn’t injured, why would he be removed? Even if he were tiring, a perfect game is one of the greatest accomplishments a baseball player can have. There have been only 17 in the 130 years of top-flight American baseball, and no one ever does it twice. Yet the Chunichi manager seemed perfectly comfortable with denying his starting pitcher this feat. What did he say to his pitcher? “You’ve been perfect so far. I would seem to have no reason to remove you from this game. But being the closer is not your job. It is Iwase-san’s job. So I’m going to let him do it.” More incredibly, the media seems perfectly okay with all this. I’ve heard that playing baseball is as much a public ritual of self-sacrifice as it is about winning for some Japanese, and events like this indicate there’s truth to that. Anyway, congratulations to the Dragons for this title and for their subsequent victory in the Asia Series. They’ve had a tremendous year, and we’ll likely see their star player, Kosuke Fukudone, in the United States next year.

On the passing of Paul Tibbets

November 23, 2007

Then the LORD said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out.”

While the two men walked on farther toward Sodom, the LORD remained standing before Abraham. Then Abraham drew nearer to him and said: “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty? Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty, so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”

The LORD replied, “If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes! What if there are five less than fifty innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?”

“I will not destroy it,” he answered, “if I find forty-five there.”

But Abraham persisted, saying, “What if only forty are found there?”

He replied, “I will forebear doing it for the sake of the forty.”

Then he said, “Let not my Lord grow impatient if I go on. What if only thirty are found there?”

He replied, “I will forebear doing it if I can find but thirty there.”

Still he went on, “Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?”

“I will not destroy it,” he answered, “for the sake of the twenty.”

But he still persisted: “Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time. What if there are at least ten there?”

“For the sake of those ten,” he replied, “I will not destroy it.”

The LORD departed as soon as he had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned home. (Genesis 18:20-33)

Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, died recently. He maintained throughout his life that he did not regret his sortie over Hiroshima, and I understand his opinion. The war was a desperate time, and the government estimated that given the Japanese army’s desperate fighting over distant islands and its citizens’ relatively enthusiastic support for the war effort, a million people would have died if conventional fighting continued. Nevertheless, I pray that such a thing will never happen again.

Postscript: Hitler may be fresh in our historical memory, but World War II concluded over sixty years ago. If you’d like to hear some eyewitness accounts of it, you’d best go find them now.

Abridging the Bible for a literature-minded friend

November 18, 2007

My writer friend Andrew is looking for reading material, so he asked us to pitch him our favorite book. This was my response:

…Despite my extreme familiarity with Christian theology, every time I read [the Bible], I find something new. I’m recommending it, though, because it has so many stories that are absolutely crucial referents for Western literature. It’s not as popular now, but before, say, 1950, I’d imagine every educated person and most non-educated people had read it cover-to-cover. I know I can’t read twenty pages of Spanish/Span-Am literature without coming upon a Biblical reference.

It’s a long story, so I’m going to do you a favor and pick out the most important threads [from a literary perspective]:

HISTORY
Genesis (skip the genealogies)
Exodus 1-17, 19:16-20, 31-35:19
Joshua 6
Judges 6-8, 14-16
Ruth
1 Samuel 1-3, 8-10, 15-21, 24, 26, 28, 31
2 Samuel 1, 5-7, 11-12, 18-19:8
1 Kings 3, 8 11:1-13, 18-19
2 Kings 2, 5:1-19; Isaiah 39:5-8 (fits here); 2 Kings 24-25
Tobit; Judith 2, 13; Esther
Daniel 1-8, 13-14
Jonah

POETRY
Job 1-7, 38-42
Psalms 13, 14:1, 19, 22, 23 (Good Shepherd), 27, 29, 40:1-3, 84, 100, 121, 122, 125, 130, 137, 139, 144
Proverbs 9:10, 13:24, 15:1, 16:18, 17:28, 23:7, 25:25, 26:7, 26:11, 28:20, 31:10-31
Ecclesiastes; Song of Songs/Song of Solomon; Wisdom 7
Isaiah 6, 40, 52:13-15, 53, 62
Jeremiah 1, 31, 37
Hosea 1-3

NEW TESTAMENT
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Revelation. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are rather similar, so you can cruise through repeated stories, but John is quite unique.

Hynes v. New York Central Argument

November 12, 2007

Conclusion: “We think that considerations of analogy, of convenience, of policy, and of justice, exclude him from the field of the defendant’s immunity and exemption, and place him in the field of liability and duty.”

Argument by analogy (FGH): two boys walking in the country (A, B, A->C, A=B…B->C)

(i)                 Two boys are killed on the border of a public territory by falling wires.  The property owner is liable for the boy sitting under the tree but not for the boy standing on it because the latter was on his property.

(ii)               Previous courts have ruled that the railroad company is not liable for the boy because he was standing on the plank.  If he were standing next to the plank, however, he would not have been liable.

(iii)             The differing remedies for the two boys are absurd.

(iv)             The differing remedies are absurd because the locations of the two boys were so similar as to be accidental.

(v)               Therefore, unless there are countervailing considerations (and there are not), the previous courts’ decisions that the diving boy is at fault are also absurd.

Argument by convenience (practical reasoning) (A->B, A, therefore B)

(i)                 The plank, though it is technically a fixture, is so close to the river that the two are inextricable, and to consider the plank strictly private property would be splitting hairs.

(ii)               Law should not be taken to such a “dryly logical extreme.”

(iii)             The court should not consider the plank strictly private property.

Argument against precedent (A->B, ~B, therefore ~A)

(i)                 If there is precedent which is applicable to this case, it should be respected.

(ii)               The pertinent trespassing laws were framed alio intuitu, or with substantively different cases in mind.

(iii)             Precedent does not conflict with Cardozo’s decision.

Argument by policy (goal-oriented justification) (A->B, A, therefore B)

(i)                 The plank belongs to both the private and public spheres.

(ii)               The plank belongs to the private sphere in a technical and artificial sense, to the public sphere in a realistic one.

(iii)             The realist’s view is to be preferred. (somewhat hidden)

(iv)             The court considers the plank part of the public sphere.

Hynes v. New York Central Essay

The major classification dispute in this case is whether the plank is private or public property.  Cardozo doubts this point, but he accepts it for the sake of the argument.  Rather, he claims that applying previous trespassing laws and decisions would be too simplistic because the board intrudes into public property and is so accessible from it.  (The boy was also occupying the publicly-owned air above the plank, Cardozo notes.)  The justice classifies the plank as an intersection of private and public property but decides it is ultimately more practical to consider the scene of the crime as public property.  That is enough for the plaintiff.

Cardozo employs the story of the two traveling boys as a reductio ad absurdum against previous interpretations of the case.  The diver would have died if he’d been on the public property anywhere near the wires, so the justice creates a similar image to drive that concept into readers’ minds.  The example is similar to the actual case, but unfortunately, the example has not been settled in cases previously, nor does it have a clear answer.  So its effectiveness depends upon its appeal to the rationality and emotions of its readers.

Patterson’s characterization of Cardozo’s argument as “ingenious casuistry” implies he does not fully support Cardozo’s decision.  He says this decision will encourage courts to avoid marginal cases like Hynes; in other words, Cardozo has complicated legal classifications without helping anyone.  I believe that strictly drawn principles are still possible, however; there may simply be cases where property ownership is not resolved until it enters a legal dispute.  The Harlem River plank is one such example.  The rail company could have resolved the issue in order to force boys off the plank but deferred; ironically, this acquiescence would hurt it in the end.

Jerome Frank wrote that the arguments of justices are often rationalizations for the conclusions they wished to reach all along.  I suspect this may be true of Justice Cardozo, who in both MacPherson and Hynes made landmark liability decisions in favor of an individual over a corporation.  His arguments are not invalid, but they do take the law in unusual directions in the name of mercy.  The Most Outrageous Consequences illustrates reasonable people could disagree with MacPherson, for instance.

I question whether Cardozo has investigated precedent to its fullest extent.  The “fixture” must have legal recognition because the concept had import to a previous case, and I would like to know how those cases were decided.  In MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co., Cardozo said the law must adapt to changing times.  Has technological progress affected this case?  I imagine accidents have happened on property borders before.

How did the boys access the plank?  In my opinion, if they could access it directly from the riverbank, Hynes has a stronger case.  The plank is more obviously railroad property if the boys had to trespass to get there.  This brings me to a potential countervailing argument against Cardozo’s “two boys” example: in the story, the boys are travelers who are resting.  In real life, the young people of Harlem had been using the plank as a diving board, for their own entertainment, for at least five years.  So the real boys deserve less sympathy than the travelers, who knew nothing of the risks near the trees.

Finally, a couple of the Speluncean Explorers judges would argue that the realist’s view is not preferable because strict, technical interpretation is what makes the law fair.

Depue v. Flateau

November 5, 2007

The judges state the facts of this case are unique.  Therefore, there is not a standard solution, and the judges cannot resort to a deductive way to resolve it.  It will be judged inductively based on the weight of its arguments.

1. Good Samaritan

a. In most circumstances, a person is not required to help one who is in distress.

Therefore, Flateau was not automatically required to help Mr. Depue.

2. Contractual relationship

a. A person is legally obliged to help another person if there is a relationship between the two (typically contractual or familial) which requires said help.

b. Mr. Flateau had a business relationship with Mr. Depue, and Mr. Depue came to Mr. Flateau’s house to partake in commerce.
c. However, Flateau was not contractually obligated to keep Depue in his house.

Therefore, Flateau’s and Depue’s relationship is a factor in this case, but it is not the deciding factor.

3. Hospitality

a. The owner of a location is responsible for the safety of his guests.

b. Mr. Flateau invited Mr. Depue to stay with him for dinner.

c. Mr. Flateau voluntarily detained Mr. Depue longer than was planned.

Therefore, Mr. Flateau was responsible for making sure this invitation did not lead to mischief for Mr. Depue.

4. Negligence

a. A person is legally responsible if he is placed in a situation in which his own negligence harms another person.  This principle is not limited to contractual relations.

b. Mr. Depue became sick while he was Mr. Flataeu’s guest.

c. Further investigation will determine whether the Flateaus were sufficiently aware of Depue’s condition.  If so, Depue would become their ward.

Therefore, if this argument is verified, it will likely render Flateau liable.

5. Ability to Help

a. A person’s liability is mitigated if he does not have the wherewithal to help another.

b. Another jury will determine which the Flateuas had such ability.

Therefore, evidence could substantiate or eliminate with the Flateaus’ best excuse.

The arguments presented seem to favor Mr. Depue, but we must consult another jury to determine more facts about the events.  In any case, the defendant’s call to abandon the case is rejected.

Dan in Real Life

November 1, 2007

<i>This is a review I wrote the morning after the premiere. Our student newspaper opted not to use it, but the staff review turned out rather similar to my own, so I suppose it didn’t lose much.</i>

The term “movie star” is so cliché that one can easily forget it’s actually a metaphor. Yesterday, Steve Carell reminded me. He effortlessly illuminates all his scenes and attracts us to his presence. “Dan in Real Life” is a straightforward movie with familiar set pieces, but it feels fresh thanks to its star’s unique abilities. I simply love watching him react to things. His actions are so comprehensible yet also incredible.

Despite his portrayals of extremely awkward characters like Brick in “Anchorman” and Michael in “The Office,” Carell seems more tranquil than other comedians who have ventured into drama. He’s very different from Jim Carrey, who needs pictures that are as manic as he is. He’s a contrast to most other stars, actually. He seems to have a sense of balance, and he has enough emotional control that he contributes to scenes even when he doesn’t have any lines.

This film is also a good landing place for Dane Cook, who has started to wear on the nerves this fall (did you know that in the calendar year, there’s only ONE October?). His likable but lexically limited character is perfect for him. Juliette Binoche is perfect as the forty-ish ingénue. The best actors besides Carell, though, are his three daughters. Their artificial resentment for their doting father is well-expressed, and writers Pierce Gardner and Paul Hedges have a good ear for their dialogue. It’s entertaining but also realistically juvenile. The rest of the ensemble adequately fills in the blanks.

I just noticed I haven’t described the plot. Here it is: Steve Carell is a widower with three children who falls in love at first sight with brother Dane Cook’s girlfriend, Binoche. Could the screenplay work with different actors? Perhaps. Carell’s character would not be as sympathetic: his character’s decisions are never wrong, but they are sometimes questionable. The plot’s engine, a Thanksgiving weekend for a high-maintenance East Coast family at a beautiful Rhode Island beach house, is getting familiar (“Pieces of April,” “The Wedding Crashers,” “The Royal Tennenbaums,” “The Family Stone”) but is not worn out yet. The soundtrack, written and performed by Sondre Lerche, is pleasant Norwegian indie that buoys the mood.

Juliette Binoche, talking about a book she wants but also describing what the author wants the movie to be, says, “I want something that’s funny, but not necessarily ha-ha-ha funny, more…human funny…something to sweep me off my feet.” “Dan in Real Life” won’t sweep many people off their feet, but it does have poignant moments. If you want an agreeable date movie, or if you want to see a star in fine form, I recommend this film.