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

“Lars and the Real Girl” is one of the strangest movies I’ve seen in a long time, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Adjectives fail me. Is it whimsical? Is serious? Is it funny? Is it supposed to be any of those things? Is it playing by its own tune, and does it know the notes? I’m really honestly not sure. Here’s a movie that doesn’t fit into any of the roles I normally assign to movies. I certainly laughed, but is it a comedy? I felt bad for the characters, but does that make it a drama?

I digress. “Lars” is about Lars, a nerdy 20-something with no people skills. It’s strange for me to say that Lars is played by Ryan Gosling, that paragon of talent and charisma onscreen, and the role plays against just about everything else I’ve seen him in, most notably “The Notebook” and “Stay.” Lars is very shy, not just toward women, but even with his own family.

Lars lives in the next-door garage of his brother Gus (Paul Schnieder), and his wife, Karin (Emily Mortimer). They get along alright, but Lars’ paralyzing timidity lead him to avoid all contact with the outside world. He works an office job, and his friend finds out about Real Dolls, a sex toy that looks like a real woman. He orders one and treats it as a real person, going as far as keeping it in his brother’s house so that they won’t sleep together.

Normally, one would use the phrase “He decides to order one” rather than “he orders one” when describing Lars’ decision, but the movie doesn’t really show that decision being made, and that is where I fault it. What is it about Lars that makes him want to interact with a fake person instead of a real one? The movie goes into minimal detail about his past, and no detail about his values. Gosling brings a lot to the role that wasn’t provided from the script.

Let me put this another way. “Lars and the Real Girl” is by no means a bad movie. I respect its attempts to try something unusual and its taking of its material seriously. But I kept feeling the movie keeping me at arms’ length. There’s something here that keeps me from fully committing to the material. About halfway through the movie, I felt incredibly off-balance and off-put, and I couldn’t tell if I liked it. The movie’s nobility in keeping its characters away from ridicule keeps it from being lovable. And a movie like this needs lovability above all things.

So there it is. I can’t say I want to see “Lars and the Real Girl” again, but don’t let that stop you. There’s a charm and originality here that goes a long way, and I think most people will like the movie despite how I felt about it. Maybe this is one of those like “Napoleon Dynamite” that improves with each viewing. But I dunno. Maybe it’s one of those movies that will just pass me by while everyone else enjoys it.


One comment

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

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