- Rated PG-13
- Buy the DVD
All photos © MGM
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ou’ve got to hand it to Ryan Gosling: it’s been over a decade since the cancellation of Disney’s “Mickey Mouse Club” reboot, and while co-stars like Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears will always be remembered as former Mouseketeers, Gosling has blazed a career trail so rich with potential that most would rather forget about his teenage years. As the title character in Craig Gillespie’s directorial debut, "Lars and the Real Girl," Gosling’s portrayal of the socially awkward Lars is so spot-on that it’s not a question of if he’ll win an Oscar, but when he’ll win one.
Living out of the garage of his childhood home, working a dull 9-to-5 job, and avoiding human contact every chance he gets, Lars is at high risk to die a lonely man. His brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) do what they can to provide a healthy social environment, but to no avail. You can imagine their excitement, then, when Lars announces one night that he’s bringing a guest over for dinner. What Gus and Karin don’t realize, however, is that Lars’ new friend is actually a wheelchair-bound, Brazilian sex doll named Bianca.
Concerned that his brother has gone bonkers, Gus tricks Lars into making an appointment with the family physician, Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), under the assertion that Bianca may be sick. While she pretends to treat Bianca, however, Dr. Dagmar is actually examining Lars, who she discovers is experiencing delusions as a result of past childhood events. Believing that Lars’ relationship with Bianca is his own way of working through his problems, Dr. Dagmar advises Gus and Karin to go along with it. So, like a good family, they do: giving Bianca a place to stay in their house, dressing her, bathing her, and, well, treating her like a normal human being. Soon enough, the rest of the townspeople join in, with the hope that they can all help poor Lars work through his fears before he gets any worse.
To fully enjoy a movie like “Lars and the Real Girl,” you're going to have to accept a few things. First off, you have to believe that something like this could really happen, and second, you have to believe that a community would come together in order to help a fellow neighbor during a time of need. Of course, neither of these exactly demands an audience to suspend disbelief. Mental illnesses are so frequent these days that it’s not hard to imagine someone striking up a serious relationship with a silicone sex doll, and anyone who has ever lived in a tight knit small town is aware of those certain, unwritten rules that make that kind of community tick.
In fact, the film’s biggest problem has nothing to do with the plausibility of the story, but rather that it takes way too long to reach its inevitable conclusion. We already know that Lars is going to outgrow his dependence of Bianca when he begins spying office crush Margo (Kelli Garner) flirting with a fellow co-worker, so why waste time developing his relationship with a sex doll when we could see him with someone that actually talks back? It’s all part of that "it’s an indie so it must be quirky" mentality that crops up far too often these days, and though it isn’t quite as poisonous to the final product as it could have been, it will still turn away potential viewers. Of course, you’re already taking that chance when you make a movie about a guy who dates an anatomically correct doll, and while “Lars and the Real Girl” is about as niche as the sex toy industry, it’s still a wildly original experience that didn’t deserve to get buried underneath the wreckage of Academy Award campaigns.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
Movies like “Lars & the Real Girl” are never given stellar DVD releases, and in following in that tradition, the single-disc release of the dark comedy is an entirely lackluster effort. With the exception of a 10-minute making-of featurette (“The Real Story of Lars and the Real Girl”), the only other bonus material to appear is a deleted scene and a brief featurette on Bianca the sex doll (“A Real Leading Lady”).