I enjoy subtle, sarcastic, and dark humor so seeing a preview for Lars And The Real Girl was all it took to garner my interest. Oddly enough, I had just watched a documentary on people who had “relationships” with the life-size sex dolls that made for another reason to see a movie about just that.
While the idea of a movie centering around a lonely man who orders a customizable doll online to be his girlfriend sounds depressing, Lars And The Real Girl is actually full of hope and love. Sure, it examines the life of a lonely soul, but it focuses more on how loving and supportive a community can be.
Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a lonely man who has retreated into a hermit-like shell and finds physical contact literally painful. Being the nice twenty-something man that he is, those around him worry about his solitary life and push the idea of dating on him like hotcakes. His news of having a girlfriend shocks those who know how uncomfortable he finds attention from others to be; even more shocking is their discovery that Bianca is in fact an anatomically correct mannequin. Yes, the sort of doll with holes in all the right places for one’s enjoyment.
Ryan Gosling truly must be a genius. He plays Lars so well that he becomes real and someone you care about. His expressions and movements bring to life Lars’ emotions so we know how he feels without anyone having to spell it out. Gosling plays Lars in such a way that his delusions seem real without taking over the film to make it about his affliction. His impairment is merely a means to tell a much bigger story.
While the film could be one big opportunity for jokes and crass humor, the filmmakers instead choose to present real people with both strengths and weaknesses that the audience begins to admire in some way. They could have easily made an exploitation film instead of a heart-warming story that is at the same time endearing and tragic.
The subtleties in the film are intelligent and easy to miss. The costumes have motivation and the changes in them reflect the growth of characters through the film (pay attention to the blanket-turned-scarf Lars wears for an example).
I find most character study films to be nothing but dull and drab but all the elements of Lars pull me in in such a way where other films fail – it makes me actually care about the characters and want to see how things will resolve. Ironically, Lars, along with his delusional faults, presents the community around him with a sign of sanity. Lars And The Real Girl brings to life a hope in community, finds respect for traumas, and shows the difficulty some have with maturing.
And no, Lars doesn’t use Bianca for her intended purpose.