Thursday, March 25, 2010

Archive: "Lars And The Real Girl" (2007)

A movie about a guy who falls in love with a sex doll could've gone completely wrong. It's a premise that could've lent itself to a movie much worse than what it wonderfully turned out to be, and that's what makes "Lars and the Real Girl" such a welcome surprise. There were so many opportunities for the movie to turn out badly, but it sidesteps all disaster and goes an unexpected route by treating a seemingly hollow premise with the utmost sincerity. All of this makes the poignant little comedy the sweetest, kindest, and most innocent movie around right now.

The movie is aided in no small part by Ryan Gosling who yet again proves himself worthy; here, he plays the quirky and overly shy Lars who is so timid that he can't even stand another person's touch. So few actors could've struck the correct balance the way Gosling does. His situation isn't the butt-end of bad laughs, but more so, a study of his character. He plays Lars with a genuine tone that carries throughout; his behavior is perfect and understandable, painful at times, but ultimately uplifting. Through Gosling's performance, we are given a glimpse into the loneliness and hope of Lars' world.

Lars' mother and father both died, and now he lives in a small cottage-like garage behind the house occupied by his older brother, Gus (Paul Schneider), and pregnant sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer). Karin desperately tries to get Lars involved in their life by inviting him to family meals, but Gus insists that it's just the way his brother is. Lars stays at home in complete solitude every evening. During the day, he goes to his office job where on one particular day his cubicle buddy shows him a website where you can create your very own sex doll. Jump ahead six weeks later when a large box is waiting for Lars when he comes home. Meet Bianca; she is a foreigner, a missionary, she's in a wheelchair, and Lars has all the reasons why she doesn't talk or eat.

When Lars introduces his new girlfriend to Gus and Karin, neither of them knows how to respond. Lars asks if Bianca can stay at their house and if she can borrow Karin's clothes. Realizing that the doll is there to stay, Karin accepts it while Gus is horrified and begins blaming himself for what has happened. They both visit a therapist, Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), who tells them that the only way to deal with it is to go along with it. Dagmar begins bringing in Bianca for pretend treatment while actually treating Lars. She concludes that Bianca provides Lars with exactly what he needs: unconditional love. Yes, it is deduced that Bianca does indeed have a special "orifice," but Lars doesn't use her for sex; she is somebody nonthreatening to be with, somebody to talk to, a companion. He treats her with respect just like any person would want to be treated.

What's so endearing about the plot is that eventually the community reaches an unspoken agreement to treat Bianca like she's real. They play along because they love Lars, and they would never want to hurt such a sweet guy. And so, they get Bianca involved in as many volunteer activities as possible with the church and hospital. It's all very humorous, especially witnessing people's reactions to the sex doll, but most of all it is charming and immensely touching. During all of this, there is a girl from Lars' office who likes him, and she copes with Bianca just the same while inching closer to Lars. It all comes to a satisfying end, an ending that makes you realize that something truly remarkable has been achieved with this film. "Lars and the Real Girl" is about loving and supporting those around us. It will not only lift your spirit but will reaffirm your hope of the goodness in people.

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