Lars and the Real Girl, a fantastic, quirky little film about growing up and confronting life, eloquently reveals how all people naturally want to form relationships. I have to say, for a movie about a sex doll, I never would have expected something as wholesome and heartwarming as Lars, but the film is an uplifting adventure.
Ryan Gosling plays the titular character, Lars, who is the most socially awkward, strange character you could imagine. Introverted and anti-social, Lars resents being spoken to and hates being touched. Not even a hug is not comforting for him- it’s painful. Lars is utterly blind to the people that are trying to reach out to him. His brother, Gus (Paul Schneider), and sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer), repeatedly try to pull him out of his shell. Even Margo (Kelli Garner), the kooky girl who practically throws herself at him, can’t connect with him.
In fact, there is only one thing that Lars seems to be able to connect with, and her name is Bianca. Bianca arrives in a box on Lars’ doorstep, complete with shiny black hair, sensuous lips, ample chest, and a sequined mini-dress. Lars introduces Bianca to his brother and sister-in-law, telling them she’s his girlfriend, a missionary on sabbatical. Gus and Karin promptly visit a psychiatrist, Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), to find out what to do. She tells them that Lars has a delusion, and the best thing to do is just play along. “Bianca’s in town for a reason,” she says, and they will only be rid of her when Lars is ready to move on. In light of this, the entire town comes together behind Lars to make Bianca feel as welcome as possible. She works multiple jobs, volunteers in church, and even helps out in the hospital. As Bianca takes on a life of her own, Lars finally confronts his deep-seated pain and loneliness, and he learns what it means to become a man.
Ryan Gosling continues to impress with his engaging performance. So often silent, Gosling speaks through his eyes, and I found myself totally fascinated by his unique character. Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider provide top-notch (and genuinely hilarious) performances as the utterly confounded relatives of Lars. They nail the scene where they first “meet” Bianca and have her over for dinner, and they garner sympathy in their stressful situation of hosting a sex doll for multiple months.
Much credit goes to writer Nancy Oliver, who crafted a simple, beautiful story, for as we watch the town folk become truly attached to Bianca, the movie reveals an inherent desire of all people to be connected to one another. As they reach out to Bianca, they reach out to Lars as well, and though the premise of the film is undeniably silly, it packs a surprisingly emotive, poignant punch.
Special credit should go to costume designers Kriston Leigh Mann and Gerri Gillan, whose wardrobe selections for the quaint townsfolk perfectly capture the essence of the town. Since Director Craig Gillespie has only helmed one other picture, the critcally dreadful Mr. Woodcock, that Lars and the Real Girl is so good is a wonderful surprise. If you can’t catch in theaters, be sure to grab it on DVD in the future. It’s weird and it’s quirky, but it was warm and delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed it. B+