‘Lars and the Real Girl’ *** Movie Review 071908


The Work = ***
‘Lars and the Real Girl’ is a quirky little comedy surrounding a great performance by Ryan Gosling as the titled Lars. For roughly two-thirds of the film everything works building towards an unknown conclusion. Then in the last third of the film, things change and it loses its footing. I’m still recommending the film because much of it still works and Gosling gives a great performance as Lars.

Lars is a loner, living in his brother Gus’s (Paul Schneider) garage. Lars goes to work in a low key office, comes home, sits by himself, then goes to work. That’s pretty much it. It is all Gus’s wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) can do to get Lars to come over for dinner. At work (and at dinner at his brother’s,) Lars exists with as little interaction as possible. Gosling, with a minimum of dialog, get across a man who is socially awkward, detached, and uncomfortable communicating with others.

I kept thinking of Sean Penn’s film ‘Into the Wild’ while watching ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ (reviewed HERE.) That film was based on real events but none the less followed a character who seemed to try and disconnect himself from the world around him. Lars has done all but march off into the wilderness by himself. Then something happens. A smarmy guy at work starts talking about these sex dolls that can be ordered online. They are several thousand dollars, look something like a mannequin, and can be customized to the clients liking. Lars seems uninterested.

(Consider this your official SPOILER WARNING, I will give away details about the plot of the film, if you don’t want to know them, stop reading.)

Then Lars brings a sex doll to dinner at his brother's. The sequences involving Lars lugging around the doll are where Gosling shines. Gus and Karin are first shocked, then saddened. Lars acts as if the doll is a real person. He pushes her around in a wheelchair, tells people she is from Brazil and carries out half of the would-be conversations with the doll. He introduces her as Bianca and when she is around he seems to come to life.

I mentioned that for the first two-thirds of the film everything works, and it does. As absurd as the notion sounds, ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ manages to plausibly show how this man could live from day to day acting as if this doll is real. Naturally, Gus and Karin are concerned about Lars and they have him see a doctor (Patricia Clarkson) under the guise that she is actually seeing Bianca. There is a fine line that Gosling walks in the film and for some of the dialogue that he and Clarkson exchange it almost seems like Lars realizes he is really discussing his own mental health.

The problems start when the film, which up until a certain point, had seemed surprisingly believable. Then Bianca and Lars have a fight, he flips out, and she ends up in the emergency room. The amount of ER resources that are expended and the very notion of some of the events that follow are so over the top, they dumped me out of ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ and seemed as if they were from a completely different film. It is a shame because up until the ER passage the film took what should have been a laughingly embarrassing premise and made it downright touching.

Even though the ending is fitting, I was never drawn back into the film and now find myself in an odd position. I liked the first two-thirds and there is no denying Gosling’s talent. He never misses a beat and really is the reason to see ‘Lars and the Real Girl’. If the film had been say, a more surreal fantasy from the start then maybe I wouldn’t have been disconnected by the last third of the film. The cast is solid, writer Nancy Oliver wrote a clever set up but they and the rest of the crew couldn’t make a conclusion that felt in sync with the rest of the film. See it for Gosling and the first two-thirds of the film, otherwise give it a rental before you buy.


‘Lars and the Real Girl’ Links:


My review of another film with Ryan Gosling 'Stay'.

My review of the Sean Penn helmed 'Into the Wild'.

Go here to see the "Real Doll" site from the film (contains doll nudity.)


Copyright 2005 - 2012 Nate Bundy. All rights reserved.