"Lars and the Real Girl"
DVD, Blu-ray Movie Review
Directed by Craig Gillespie, written by Nancy Oliver, 106 minutes, rated PG-13.
By Christoher Smith
Craig Gillespie’s "Lars and the Real Girl" is the story of 27-year-old Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling), a shy, God-fearing man who orders a life-size sex doll through the Internet and eventually accepts her not only as a real person, but also as his new girlfriend, Bianca, a half-Brazilian, half-Danish missionary.
Good for him, you say? Not so fast.
The trouble with Lars is that none of this is a joke. He expects everyone in his life to accept Bianca as a living human being, which not only sounds screwy given Bianca’s rubbery mouth, corked gaze and strawlike hooker wig, but also, as far as this movie is concerned, painfully manufactured and a wee bit creepy.
Given the subject matter, it’s easy to go into the movie armed with resistance — the whole premise is a stretch. After its awkward opening moments, it’s also just as easy to dismiss it, particularly since it initially isn’t clear whether the film is intended to be a comedy or a drama.
But then the director does something unexpected. Working from Nancy Oliver’s script, he starts to unfold the rest of the plot with such grace and seriousness that he nudges you into acceptance of the absurd. It takes time for that to happen — this is a movie that grows on you — but when you come to believe what Lars believes, what ensues can be disarmingly powerful.
How Lars came to this fractured point in his life is a complication best left for the screen to explore, but what can safely be said is that Lars’ older brother, Gus (Paul Schneider), left the family at its lowest point, thus leaving Lars scarred with abandonment issues.
Now those issues have come to a head in ways that Gus, his wife, Karin (Emily Mortimer), Lars’ co-workers (including the terrific Kelli Garner), a local doctor (Patricia Clarkson, excellent) and the entire town must face. This young man is mentally ill and he needs their help. Are they willing to go along with Lars’ delusion in the hopes that he’ll come through it?
Since that means accepting Bianca as a real person, it’s a tall order, to say the least. But as the local pastor puts it to this rural town of Midwesterners, "What would Jesus do?"
What ensues is touching, not schmaltzy, an intelligent film that proves sometimes it really does take a village to change a life — or at least to make an effort to change it. The neat sleight-of-hand the movie achieves is how the townspeople come to need Bianca almost as much as Lars does. This sex doll with the fiery-cold stare and the opened silicone limbs brings the community together in ways for which she never was intended, but there she is, a miracle worker whose ample chest is pinned with dozens of hopes.
Marked by its excellent performances — the movie would have collapsed without the strength of its cast, all of whom play the material mostly straight — "Lars and the Real Girl" looks at life with a frankness and a patience that’s refreshing.