Lars and the Real Girl
For a sex toy, she sure eats a lot.

Theatrical Release Date: 10/12/2007
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Paul Schneider, Emily Mortimer, Kelli Garner, Patricia Clarkson

If you ever wondered what it’d be like for David Arquette to buy an anatomically correct love doll and for his entire community to support his choice of companion … then what the hell is wrong with you?

Seriously. Seek help.

However, just because it’s bizarre doesn’t mean it won’t happen. And so we have “Lars and the Real Girl”. In this instance, the word “real” denotes not only a type of intimate, inanimate love toy but also the existence of an actual girl (Kelli Garner) and how both make a profound connection with the titular Lars.

However, instead of actually casting David Arquette (and hoping he could pull off the subtlety of the character), director Craig Gillespie went with Ryan Gosling. Gosling once again shows off his acting ability, convincingly portraying a character so closed off from reality that they could come to believe an inanimate object was a real person. This is far from surprising as he has consistently shown why he and a select few other actors are keeping the Freddie Prinze, Jr.’s of the world at bay.

The standouts in the film though are Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer as Gosling’s brother and sister-in-law. Schneider gives the most realistic portrayal in the town of a real person conflicted about going along with Gosling’s delusion. He doesn’t want to do it, he thinks Lars has gone off the reservation, and wants to shake his brother back into reality. Mortimer is angelic, trying her hardest to bring Gosling out of his shell and utilizing her burgeoning maternal instincts once he invents the love of his life.

Playing the town psychologist, Patricia Clarkson is also quite good – providing strength and yet also a great deal of heart as she tries to help Lars through his issues. While perhaps unorthodox, her treatment plan is the driving force behind the town’s coalescence over this issue.

As the story unfolds, there’s no denying that Lars is a fascinating character, engendering a mix of sorrow and pity and each new development provides the audience with another glimpse into his troubled psyche. It’s clear that not all the gears are working in his head but the basis for that isn’t so translucent, leading to one of my issues with the film which is never really understanding Gosling’s psychosis. Is it a result of maternal absence, mental defect or some combination therein? I think the point of the film is to be open to a person’s perspective and accept them no matter their idiosyncrasies (and I can fill in the blanks) – but still I wanted a clearer explanation.

Though, I could forgive that quite easily if it weren’t for my biggest problem – the townspeople. From the inception of Gosling’s break with reality, due to a doctor’s advice, everyone is told to accept the doll as a real person and go along with it so Gosling can work out his issues.

I can see where the family and close friends would acquiesce to such a request … but the entire town? Sure, it’s a small town with those good, old-fashioned values but you would think that at least some of them would be more likely to ridicule Gosling than to placate him. This sweet and loving community just felt rather fake, like they too were in some haze of reality. It’s to the point that I could have far more easily believed the entire town was part of some cult ruled by the doctor than that they would show so much support for a guy who bought a sex toy, anthropomorphized it and fell in love.

“Lars and the Real Girl” is obviously a little strange. Suspension of disbelief must not only be undertaken by the characters in the film but by the audience as well. I truly enjoyed many of the acting performances and found a lot of sweetness in the film overall. However, the unrealistic setting and lack of full disclosure concerning Gosling’s mental state knock this down a little and I can only give the film a 3 out of 5. If you like independent film and like quirky subjects, then you’ll enjoy this one … otherwise, you might want to stick to a more traditional cinema diet.