If Frank Capra ever made a movie about a delusional young man’s obsession with his anatomically correct blow up doll, it would be something like “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007). A sweet and charming movie (hey, it’s only rated PG-13), “Lars and the Real Girl” offers a community that likely would not exist in the real world, but I was more than happy to visit it in the movies.
Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is a painfully shy young man who lives in the garage of the house he grew up in. His brother Gus (Paul Schneider) lives in the house with his wife Karen (Emily Mortimer) as they await the birth of their first child. Gus and Karen want Lars to move into the house with them (since the house is half his as well) but he is content to stay in the garage. Lars also continually refuses their invitation to dine with them. It’s obvious Lars loves his family, but he just wants to be left alone. He also has an aversion to being touched.
One day, a package for Lars arrives. That night Lars comes to the door to introduce his new girlfriend, Bianca, someone he met on the Internet, a girl who, Lars cautions, is very shy. Bianca turns out to be a blowup doll.
It sounds kind of kinky and sketchy, but it isn’t. Lars is a decent sort who just has problems relating to the world around him. A girl at his office named Margo (Kelli Garner) obviously likes Lars, but he seeks comfort in his relationship with Bianca.
The townspeople are very fond of Lars (he grew up there after all) and everyone decides to treat Bianca like a real person, including her in conversations, giving her flowers and encouraging her to attend School Board meetings.
Indie film favorite Patricia Clarkson appears as his doctor, who encourages Gus and Karen to let Lars work his way out of his delusion.
Gosling, one of our best young actors, is wonderful as Lars. He’s a decent man and you root for him to come to his senses. You can tell he doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone, and he’ll flash a quick shy smile before he says something. He’s a good guy.
You can see why Margo would fall for his essential kindness and decency. Garner is a real find. Very pretty in an odd, unconventional way, she makes a very appealing, small town girl type. I’m going to keep my eye out on her, as I thought she was absolutely wonderful.
Taken literally, “Lars and the Real Girl” would come off as silly, but the small town milieu is nicely handled, the characters are very likeable and I wanted everything to turn out OK for those characters. I wasn’t surprised that this movie earned a richly deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. I liked it a lot.
Rating for “Lars and the Real Girl”: Three stars.