‘Lars and the Real Girl’: Surprising and sweet

Thu, 11/29/2007 - 5:09pm
By: Emily Baldwin

When I walked in to see “Lars and the Real Girl,” I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I had heard chatter about it being surprisingly sweet, but my real reason for going to see it was lead actor Ryan Gosling, who portrays Lars Lindstrom.

Gosling has done nothing but confirm for me his incredible acting talent in each of this films, particularly his most recent efforts, “Half Nelson” and “Fracture,” and now “Lars and the Real Girl.”

What’s not to love about him? He’s great looking, charming, talented and doesn’t seem to be seeking fame as much as he’s interested in expanding his art form.

So what’s the backbone to Gosling’s newest indie flick? Well, it’s a story about a young guy (Gosling) who’s a bit of a loner. His mother died while giving birth to him, which has left him with some abandonment issues. Plus, his older brother, Gus (played by Paul Schneider), caught the first bus out of town as soon as he was old enough, leaving Lars in the care of his heartbroken and ill-equipped father, who has since passed away.

Now Gus and his pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) are living in the family’s old country house and Lars has moved into the detached garage.

Karin is worried about Lars, who keeps to himself and only comes into the main house for dinner after Karin literally tackles him and makes him come in. Gus doesn’t think Karin should worry and even has a half-hearted talk with Lars about his lifestyle, inviting him to live in the main house with he and Karin. When Lars refuses, Gus doesn’t press the issue.

It’s only when Lars asks Gus and Karin if his new girlfriend can stay with them for a while, that Gus sees that he should be more concerned about Lars. While they are thrilled that Lars has opened up and gotten himself a girlfriend, they are distraught when Lars brings over a “Real Doll” purchased off the Internet. More disturbing, though, is his delusion that the doll is real and treats her as such, pushing her around in a wheelchair and all.

He tells his brother and sister-in-law all about his girlfriend, Bianca, creating a full back-story about his new friend. Worried that he is in need of psychological help, Gus and Karin take Lars and his “girlfriend” in to see the town’s resident family practice doctor who is also a psychologist. The doctor informs his family that Lars isn’t psychotic, as they had feared, but that his delusion was a coping mechanism to deal with something missing in his life.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, as it’s way more fun to see it unfold for yourself. What I will say is that you have to go into this film completely ready to shed all need for realism and realistic expectations for how things would play out. This film may not be realistic, but, in my opinion, it’s a film that says, “If this situation were to happen to someone, and if the people in that person’s life were to react like this, then this is what it might look like.”

What I appreciate most about this film is that it took a topic that could have veered off into the dark and perverse and instead took a surprising turn into the heartfelt. The film tells a sweet and often funny story about love and how a community can come together to support one of their own.

The story is well written and, no question about it, unique, and was penned by Nancy Oliver, author of seven episodes of the HBO show “Weeds.” Craig Gillespie directed and thankfully redeems himself from his association with the heinous “Mr. Woodcock.”

As I said at the beginning of this review, Gosling’s acting talent is unquestionable in my eyes. His interaction with the doll was more believable than many scenes between two live actors, and his ability to convey emotion through a look and/or body language is praise-worthy.

The supporting cast fits together like a puzzle, surrounding the central piece that is Lars, and Mortimer is one of the most notable of the bunch.

“Lars and the Real Girl” is rated PG-13, and isn’t appropriate – nor would it be very interesting – for the little ones. For those who think that a film about a boy falling in love with a Real Doll couldn’t be anything more than an attempt at shock value, think again.

“Lars and the Real Girl” is in limited release, but can still be seen at the Georgian Cinemas 14 in Newnan.

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