Gayle’s Review: “Lars and the Real Girl”

“Lars and the Real Girl” is a film that will most likely be described as “weird”. I would describe it as, “warm-hearted, charming, and well-constructed”. It’s a film about a lonely guy coping in an off-kilter way and about his friends and neighbors agreeing to play along because they like him.

Lars [Ryan Gosling] is a man in his twenties with a job, a car, a place to live, and a total fear of human contact. He lives in a converted garage next to his childhood home, where his brother and sister-in-law [Paul Shnieder and Emily Mortimer] are keeping house. Lars can barely hold a three-sentence conversation with his co-workers and is obviously and painfully lonely. Ryan Gosling gives, as usual, an impressive, heart-wrenching performance as Lars. He has a way of imparting small bits of business into his characters that makes me forget I’m watching Ryan Gosling and makes me wonder and hope for, in this case, Lars.

To cope with his loneliness, Lars buys a Real Girl Doll, names her Bianca, and convinces himself that she’s real. Lars’ brother and sister-in-law, obviously concerned, see the local psychologist [Patricia Clarkson, in a small but incredibly useful role], who tells them that they need to play along for Lars’s mental health.

And so begins what could have been a huge farce of a film. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. I kept waiting for Lars and Bianca to be the butt of the joke. I kept waiting for that one jerk in town who always runs out in movies like this and points out what a weirdo Lars is. None of that happened. Lars and Bianca were taken seriously as characters. Everyone’s reactions were taken seriously as reactions, and in the end, there’s happiness of a sort. There’s one scene in particular, between Gosling and Schneider in a laundry room, that tore out my heartstrings. It could have been an obvious, cliché of a backstory, but the way Shnieder and Gosling played it, it was an honest, moving moment between bothers who haven’t had a conversation in years, if ever.

This is, to be certain, an idealized version of events. A guy who buys a sex doll to keep him company would not get the kind of response that Lars gets in the film. I’m okay with that. “Lars and the Real Girl” is a film about people being decent and kind because they care very much for another person. Every time it seemed like the movie was going to poke fun at the situation, it didn’t, and I sighed with relief when it never came to obvious jokes or cruel taunting.

“Lars and the Real Girl” is a film about loneliness, acceptance, and forward momentum. The cast is superb from the word ‘go’, and while it was painful to watch Lars as he stumbled his way through his delusion, it was also a joy at the end to see how far he’d come.

See it. Love it. Be kind to the people you love.


One comment

  1. […] Gayle’s Review:  Lars and the Real Girl […]

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