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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