As the title character, Ryan Gosling is a strange but likeable young man who manages to keep down a job but keeps mostly to himself. He only leaves the garage where he lives when his older brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and loving sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) drag him to their house next door for dinner. Lars doesn’t take well to questioning, so the disturbing level of his isolation is never openly discussed. It’s only when he announces he has a girlfriend in the form of an anatomically correct doll he purchased via the internet that everyone must admit his precarious mental state. No one quite knows how to help Lars, so they play along, careful not to do anything that might push him or Bianca (his plastic fiancée) over the edge. The results are touching efforts on the part of all those who love him to help Lars through what his psychologist (Patricia Clarkson) assures them may be only a stage. Kelli Garner shines as Margo, the real, live girl who Lars seems incapable of seeing. Despite being ignored, Margo hangs in there, hopeful Lars will come around to sanity and to her. Craig Gillespie’s LARS AND THE REAL GIRL is a sweet love story and a film which deals with mental illness in surprisingly subtle ways. With a formula that could easily have manipulated for cheap laughs, the film achieves quirky humor in parts but mostly touching observations about the nature of delusions themselves. The film’s talented cast gathers around Lars, a sensitive character who the film respects and who Gosling (THE NOTEBOOK, HALF NELSON) brings fully to life.
Lars doesn’t have the best life. And like everyone else Lars wants more. He deserves more after all–don’t we all deserve more? But Lars wants love. Some how this seemingly interesting and handsome young man can’t seem to find it anywhere, other than buying a lifelike female doll. Then again he is a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy. And that is what makes the movie so endearing.
Anyone who has heard or seen the Howard Stern show will know what the doll is like and what it is made for. The rest of you may not realize that its a sex toy. It seems that the one-liners about her being too religious to sleep with him are real attempts at humor, but what the movie lacks in comedy it makes up for in heart. This is a cute movie that even a guy can admit to liking. Yes its as quirky as a movie gets–the doll needs a wheelchair too? Realistic, its not even close. If it were the real world the guy would be in an mental hospital. And yes, the guy is totally mental but everyone acts as if its okay. The community all pull together to make him feel like his life is normal and that’s all Lars has ever wanted.
“Lars and the Real Girl” isn’t going to make you cry like “Free Willy” but somehow a movie about a crazy guy in love with a sex toy proves to have heart. This is why we watch movies–to be transformed from our every day life into something altogether unimaginable.