Starring the beautiful Ryan Gosling, before his famous “hey girl” internet meme, Lars and the Real Girl (2007) is a compelling character drama about the titular Lars – a shy, anti-social, but sweet young man who lives in his brother’s garage. Lars has a fairly insular life and barely interacts with his brother and his brother’s wife, despite his physical proximity to them. One day, he goes to work and a colleague is browsing a site that sells RealDolls – fairly realistic looking, life-size female companion dolls. Intrigued, Lars decides to buy one of these dolls. Enter RealDoll Bianca, a half Brazilian, half Danish, beautiful, well-developed woman with an intricate past. Lars and the Real Girl chronicles Lars’ relationship with Bianca, and Bianca’s relationship with everyone.
Ryan Gosling is so convincing in this film as an anti-social and chronically reserved isolate. He perfectly nails the ticks and winces of someone with severe social anxiety, but who has no choice but to interact with others, despite the pain this causes him. The script doesn’t need to say it aloud, but Gosling perfectly portrays the idea that Lars finds interacting with a doll much more psychologically safe as opposed to interacting with real people. You only have to look at his proud face when discussing Bianca’s accomplishments, and when discussing his love for her, and contrast that with how he physically presents when around people socially. The transformation is astounding. His brother, however, has reservations about this development, and refers Lars to a psychologist, Dagmar (played by the wonderful Patricia Clarkson), who emphasises that Lars isn’t sick – there’s a reason why he is having a relationship with Bianca at this point in time. Lars finds something in Bianca that he cannot see himself getting elsewhere – unconditional acceptance.
What is really wonderful about this film, is how the general community grows to accept Bianca. Initially, everyone thinks Lars is crazy and weird for having a relationship with a doll. Some members of the community are fairly disrespectful about it and make crude jokes. But over time, people begin to accept this unorthodox love, and find value in Bianca as much as Lars has. The local thrift shop owner seeks a mannequin for the window, and Bianca is there to help. She also eventually helps out at the hospital, and local pre-school. Everyone sees something different in Bianca that they grow to love. Lars and Bianca become a popular couple, and Lars’ social skills blossom as a result. This is the most heartwarming part of the film, and provides a good balance to the more dramatic elements of the film.
Craig Gillespie’s direction seems like the typical “indie” Sundance-style flavour of film, but this is definitely the perfect method to express this particular story. He makes use of a lot of great reaction shots to Lars and Bianca, and these aid in the development of the town’s growing familiarity with and affection for Bianca. The script, by Nancy Oliver, is punchy and poignant. The dialogue between Lars and Dagmar is particularly excellent, and is an incredibly authentic example of typical dialogue in a therapeutic relationship. Meanwhile, the score by David Torn is very whimsical and twee, which suits the subject matter very well. All in all, the creative elements of the film were a perfect match for one another, allowing the story to shine through.
Ultimately, Lars and the Real Girl is a beautiful film about fundamentally good people, which makes it quite refreshing in terms of its content. No anti-heroes here; just people who want to see the best in others. This film might initially make you feel uneasy, because the idea of a legitimate romance between a grown man and an anatomically correct, life-size female doll is not the most appetising of subjects. But this film is really all about Lars – why did he choose Bianca at this point in his life? What does his relationship with Bianca say about his relationship with others? In this way, the film is a very interesting study of one man’s inner world, and the impact that this has on his relationships with others.
Watch the trailer here.
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Ryan Gosling still surprises me with how strong his performances can be. This is still on my list but I’m glad to see Gosling and the movie in general do not disappoint. Great review!
Thank you! 🙂 It’s definitely one to escalate on the films list! Gosling is so wonderful in this. He really is a very versatile actor.
So glad you liked the movie! It’s so beautiful isn’t it? I loved townspeople warming up to Bianca too – finding connection and joy as Lars did. My favorite scene was Lars rescuing the teddy bear, who obviously meant so much to his cute co-worker. Such a lovely scene.
I loved it, and it really was beautiful! That teddybear moment was so sweet. I think there was a big “Aaawww!” from everyone in the room when it happened!
I was surprised by how much I liked this movie. But I really did like it. It’s very sweet in an unexpected way.
Absolutely! Initially I thought I might find this film super weird, but it was really immersive. A very surprising film.
Gosling is so great in this and has us actually see him as Lars, rather than Baby Goose. Good review Anna.
Thanks! 🙂 Love that Gos. Definitely one of his better roles!
This is a great rom-com and, IMO, a superior film to the similar HER.
Nice parallel! I never thought of that. They are definitely comparable. But I wouldn’t be able to say which is better as I really loved both!
Great review! This is one of Gosling’s movies that I love (and think is underrated, people should see this film!). He performance was great, and I liked how the film just flowed on perfectly, changing Lars bit by bit.
Thank you! 🙂 Gos was so great in this. I think this would be an interesting one to re-watch!
Absolute gem of a movie, one of my faves. It’s funny, sad, heartwarming. Gosling is great. Nice review!
Thank you! 🙂 Love that Gosling!
One of my faves, up there with McConaughey and Tom Hardy for potential talent/man crush suitability!
A perfect mancrush trifecta, if I do say so myself!
Hey girl… I like the way you watch movies and read Game of Thrones books… (would be the best meme ever)! Good review, such an interesting and different movie. But I have to say those dolls are weird! I once saw a documentary on those guys who own them and treat them like wives and they are oddballs.
That was me! You real life women dont understand us doll lovers!
(I dont really like dolls!)
SURE Mikey Sure! How many of these dolls do you own? I bet you have a red headed one too, but it’s okay love is love and I can’t argue with that. LOL
Haha! Hey girl… I like your comment. I think I might have seen some images of older men with these dolls and you’re right, there is something strange about it. Which reminds me of another reason why I liked this film: because that there wasn’t any weird sexual stuff with the doll. I think that would have totally put me off!
Hey girl…if only they could do some of those with Game of Thrones pics how funny would that be?! Yes thank goodness no weirdness with dolls, please! I do not want my vision of Ryan Gosling tainted like that.
Great review Anna, its a really sweet film and it would be nice to think that people in towns would rally round someone like that
Thanks Mikey! 🙂 Yeah, you would hope that townsfolk in general would respond with such amazing support to people with mental health needs.
Yeah, fantastic review Anna, you’ve really helped make me see how much better this one was than what I first viewed it as. I wasn’t initially pleased with what I saw at all, I thought it depressing and really just uncomfortably odd, but it is very heartwarming and I esp. like how you pointed out the absence of really any villain or even antagonist of any sort. It was all people jsut wanting the best for Lars. This definitely deserves a second and maybe more viewings from me very soon
Thanks Tom! 🙂 I would definitely agree that some parts were pretty uncomfortable, but for me it was outweighed by the charm of the rest of the film. Now I’m thinking of rewatching it as well!
I’ve been intrigued about this ever since Sati’s Visual Parallels post about this, and again, you’ve won me over here. And uh, um, Gosling too. Great review, Anna!
Thanks! 🙂 You should definitely see it!
I love this film it holds a special place in my heart. 🙂
Now it does in mine too! 🙂
I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
I don’t know who you are but definitely you’re going to a
famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!
[…] was lars and the real girl shot Lars and the Real Girl (2007) was shot “on location in Alton, Elora, King Townshop, Toronto, Uxbridge, and […]
[…] lars and the real girl did he kill her No. The ‘real girl’ in question is a RealDoll named Bianca, and is in fact not dead. […]
Reblogged this on FILM GRIMOIRE and commented:
I’m rewatching Lars and the Real Girl (2007) tonight, so I thought I’d reblog this vintage review of mine. Lars and the Real Girl is truly a very special film and, now that I think about it, probably one of my favourite Ryan Gosling performances. What do you think? Creepy or awesome?
This movie was both creepy and awesome. Ryan Gosling was excellent in this – the best part about his performance was that you did want to learn more about this guy and could sort of relate to him even though you might have otherwise dismissed him as crazy. Glad you enjoyed it too and thanks for reblogging this!
Creepy and awesome is right, Gosling absolutely nails it!