Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I’m sure a lot of us that had HBO at one time or another caught the episode of ‘Real Sex’ that featured the anatomically correct Real Doll.  Hell, I even logged on their site and used the Real Doll Configurator and built me one.  Naturally I’m not going to send those clowns 8 grand to actually bring one home, plus my wife being as uptight as she is probably wouldn’t get along with my new friend anyway, but it was a little odd watching that segment and witnessing the people having ‘fun’ with their new expensive toy.  One of the men in this segment however didn’t seem to be using the real doll for sex and instead was dressing it up, posing it, sitting at the table for tea and the like, which could have very well been inspiration for this sweet movie about shyness and acceptance in ‘Lars and the Real Girl’.

To say Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) has some issues would be a grand understatement.  At the age of twenty seven, Lars is pathologically shy, to the point where even the touch of another human causes him pain.  He lives in a cabin in the back of the house occupied by his older brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and Gus’ pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer), he desperately avoids all of Karin’s impassioned attempts to convince Lars to interact with her and her husband, be it breakfast or dinner, and spends most of his nights alone in the darkness.  But Lars is a good boy at heart as he attends church every Sunday, helps people out around this cold north Midwestern town – wherever the hell it is, I’m thinking Wisconsin or something, holds a steady office job and we think he even likes a girl in the mousy Margo (Kelli Garner), but when the simple touch of another person causes your skin to metaphorically burn, this is going to make it challenge to establish a relationship with just about anyone.

When Lars’ cube mate at his job tells him about this web site where you can build your own love companion, little did we know that six weeks later UPS would deliver a big ass wood box to Lars’ door.  Though actually possessing a love doll may be a little strange, how Lars treats the love doll is, well, insane.  Bianca (Love Doll SKU#138883), Lars tells his brother and sister-in-law, is a Brazilian missionary who has lost the use of her legs and needs a wheel chair to get around, or needs to be carried.  And since they are both religious people, Lars requests that Bianca stay in the house with them so there won’t be any impropriety.  Big Brother Gus is horrified, Karin slightly less so but still mightily concerned.   Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), the family general practitioner, advises them to just roll with it, and a through treating Bianca’s ‘illness’ she also treats Lars to hopefully help work through his issues.  What follows is quite the adventure as Bianca and Lars struggle with their relationship just like any other ‘normal’ couple, and it’s something to see.

I suppose, in the same way a pit bull puppy isn’t born bad, since it takes some person – like an NFL quarterback or something – to make it bad, a sex doll isn’t a sex doll unless one uses it as such.  Director Craig Gillespie was cleverly able to lift the stigma off of Bianca’s sordid origins and integrate her into this film just like any other character.  And it was actually refreshing too that the director and screenwriter Nancy Oliver didn’t stoop to may of the tired plot devices that one fully expects to see in a movie like this.  Perhaps because it was a small town and every one is fully aware of Lars and his idiosyncrasies, the towns folk go out of there way to accommodate Lars and his new friend.  You cringe when you see Lars taking Bianca to an office party, but it was unnecessary because it’s not that they have necessarily accepted Bianca, but they understand and accept Lars.

Of course ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ starts and stops with yet another phenomenal performance by Ryan Gosling who is easily the best working actor of any of his direct peers (I say ‘working’ because there are a lot of really good young actors who are frying my potatoes even as we speak).  Gosling blesses the character of Lars with real tangible humanity and your heart goes out to him as the film plays on.  Yes, the situation with the doll is funny and ridiculous to start, but amazingly Bianca eventually becomes secondary with the relationships between Lars and the people around him, mostly facilitated through Bianca, take center stage.   Quite honestly, who knew mental illness could be handled in such a way that it manages to be funny, sweet, touching and sad, but not the least bit condescending or insulting.  Or at least I don’t think it’s insulting.  I’d have to ask a certified nut job to find that out for sure.  Oh wait, there goes one right there.  Well there you go, my wife agrees with me.

Certainly one of the strangest movies we’ve seen so far this year, as it comes to a close, ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ is quite the marvel of humor and sadness.  It might not float everyone’s boat but I personally enjoyed the movie immensely.

Real Time Web