ARCHIVE REVIEW: Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and the Real Girl
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Nancy Oliver
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Paul Schneider, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson

Pretty much your standard indie-love-dramedy. Boy meets girl. Boy suppresses feelings for girl. Boy orders an anatomically correct mannequin off the internet in replacement.

Okay, so not quite the standard love story arc we’re used to, but it’s definitely something quirky and cool enough for to get excited about, since it is the premise is really what drives the interest throughout movie. Lars Lindstrom (Gosling) lives in the garage/apartment adjacent to the home his brother (Schneider) and him inherited from their dead parents. For the most part Lars seems like a normal guy, driving his own car, attending church, dressing in a range of gaudy sweaters and working in a small desk job where he has many co-worker friends who attempt to reach out to Lars. The problem is, is that Lars rejects their affection and often seems irritated by their company and kindness.

Soon enough Lars finally breaks out of his shell and giddily introduces his sister and law and brother to a beautiful wheelchair-bound Brazilian visitor he met on the internet named Bianca. Oh, and she’s a plastic sex doll. On the request of his psychologist, his family and neighbors treat Bianca as the person Lars believes she is. They dress her up, bathe her, let her volunteer in the community until it reaches the point where we wonder if they remember that Bianca is 90 pounds of bendy silicon.

In different hands the film could have been a complete disaster, a five minute concept drug out into two hours of who cares. But veteran writer and producer of Alan Ball’s Six Feet Under and True Blood series Nancy Oliver delicately nurtures this plastic premise into a living and breathing script that takes a good look at responding to delusion, or less specifically, responding to the odd with acceptance. It shows how the community should react with tolerance. Substitute Lars’ delusion with retardation, disability or homosexuality and you essentially have the same message.

The film tip toes around the high sensitivity of the subject. It never goes too deep into Lars’ delusion, or how that delusion affects his family and friends. Never is it too dirty or mocking. It is a very grounded story that just skims the top layer. And really the top layer is all that is needed. Anything else would just weigh it down and make it something less interesting.

The main problem is ‘Lars’ is that despite how dexterously it is conceived and executed, is still a rather dull and humdrum film made up of plastic and dressed in human clothes for us to watch.

Grade: C+

7 thoughts on “ARCHIVE REVIEW: Lars and the Real Girl

  1. OMG! Thank you. I HATED this movie. This was recommended by a fellow cinephile friend of mine. I was bored out of my mind. I was like Chinese water torture.

  2. Is that cinephile friend of yours … me? Sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy Branden 😦

    It might be a bit too slow and quiet for some but I absolutely loved it.

  3. The movie felt so much like Edward Scissorhands, and surprisingly gave me this utter connection the sex doll, more than some of the real humans in the film.

    • Yeah, in some ways it is like Edward, with the community reacting to the paranormal. But I think Edward Scissorhands is in a whole different league of film. That movie is a great example of how a director uses really specific choices in costuming, staging and editing to make brilliant commentaries on the community at that time. I don’t think Lars was even close to doing any of that.

  4. That C+ hurts my heart. That’s a low blow, man, a low, low blow.

    I’d have to disagree (respectfully, of course) that “Lars” is “rather dull and humdrum.” The pacing is slow and deliberate and a lot rides on Ryan Gosling’s performance, which is so very understated it might seem boring to those with little patience. So much of it comes through his expressions, his eyes, the slant of his mouth — it’s kind of amazing, actually.

    Overall, I was thoroughly charmed by “Lars,” which is saying a lot because I’m not the romantic comedy type.

    • I love a lot of movies that are slow paced and performance driven. There Will Be Blood comes to mind at the moment. I really like a lot of independent cinema too where not a lot happens, like Once, The Squid and the Whale or Lost in Translation even. Dull and humdrum has little to do with its pacing as much as it has to do with just the overall life of the film, which seems to feel just as plastic as Bianca. Just my opinion though.

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