Lars and the Real Girl
Rated PG-13; Directed by Craig Gillespie; Starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Kelli Garner, Paul Schneider, Patricia Clarkson
How can a film that has our hero fall in love with a sex doll even have a smidgen of charm? It sounds impossible. Unbelievably, Lars and the Real Girl achieves the impossible. The concept of a an awkward young man creating a relationship with a fancy blow-up doll should sink the whole endeavor ten minutes into the movie, but direction with a deft touch, plus performances with depth make for a totally satisfying film experience.
In Lars and the Real Girl the main character, Lars (Ryan Gosling), lives the life of a loner. Housed in his brother’s garage, Lars is happiest in his own miserable world. When his sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer), tries to keep Lars involved with the family and a cute co-worker shows some interest in Lars, he takes a step in stopping their attentions. He finds a girlfriend. Well, if you can call a sex doll bought online a girlfriend. To Lars, “Bianca” is real.
The fun and the charm are watching his family and friends try to deal with Lars break from reality. The introduction to Bianca is funny, but real in its awkwardness and pain. As the rest of the people in the small town become involved, the movie takes on a sweet and gentle feel. They all do their best to make Bianca a part of the community. They even have Bianca volunteering at the hospital. You can’t help but love everyone’s efforts.
The cast is excellent. Ryan Gosling deserves credit for making Lars a sympathetic and interesting character. His role isn’t easy, but his Lars is believable, and he even manages to make Bianca a living character in all her silicone, anatomically-correct glory. Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider bring depth to roles that could be played for broad humor. The always wonderful Patricia Clarkson plays the family doctor who slowly discovers Lars’ buried pain.
Lars and the Real Girl owes a lot to writer Nancy Oliver. She manages to thread a fine line between comedy and drama to make a sweet, funny, and moving film. Director Craig Gillespie makes up for directing the horrible Mr. Woodcock by giving Lars and the Real Girl a light and quirky touch. He keeps it from being too cloying.
It’s hard to believe that a silly concept can make for such a satisfying movie. Blow-up dolls are the mark of crude and sophomoric humor, but in Lars and the Real Girl the doll ends up more human than many characters in those crude comedies. A great script, good direction, and some marvelous performances all come together in a lovely package. If only more films would try for something as interesting as Lars and the Real Girl.