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Rental Unit

"Good Bye Lenin!"

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There are many scenes like this, as writer and director Wolfgang Becker astutely examines the absurdities of a closed society and the trauma inflicted on people when its social fabric is stripped away. Central to the point is the story of one family favored by the former regime. The suburban matriarch, a middle-aged divorcee active in the party, goes into a coma following a sudden heart attack on the eve of reunification. When she comes to months later, her son Alex fears that any sudden start could kill her. So he creates an elaborate ruse to block the news that her beloved government has fallen.

Like the ragged wall still partly dividing the city, this plot device is sure to split audiences. Alex juggles numerous scams to keep up the facade, and it's hard to overlook the similarity of these goofy machinations to the goings on in many a "Three's Company" episode.

Outside these moments, the cast is enjoyable. As Alex, Daniel Br�hl, a German Ashton Kutcher, gives a winning portrayal of a jaded post-adolescent asked to come of age too quickly amid historic events beyond his control. His supporting cast, including a dim-witted half brother, is also wonderfully sharp.

"Good Bye Lenin" is ultimately a film that intends more than its creators are able to deliver. The unreal nature of the communist police state is continuously echoed in the lives dealing with its demise. But each twist only stretches credulity further. Unlike the Wall, authenticity is an obstacle that proves too daunting to defeat.

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