I can just hear the pitch to finance the movie if it had been the Farrelly Brothers' idea: "See, there's this dumb oddball played by that hunk Ryan Gosling -- well, okay, he's not a hunk but we'll have him work out with a personal trainer for six weeks -- and he gets this terrific idea to buy a life-size, anatomically correct plastic sex doll to be his girlfriend...yeah, you heard me right...anatomically correct. Wait, wait, stop smirking...it gets better. We got jokes out the kazoo about Gosling `bathing' his girlfriend, `undressing' his girlfriend and putting his girlfriend `to bed.' Then...what'd you say...how much do we want? Well, we estimate $90 million without CGI, $140 million with CGI. What's the CGI for? Just look at these sketches. We'll use CGI to make the plastic doll do things, if you get our meaning. What? You'll finance for $140 million with a 15 percent off-budget kickback and you want a set of the sketches? Done!"
The Farrelly Brothers, thank goodness, didn't make Lars and the Real Girl. It's a small, independent film written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Craig Gillespie. It's a gentle story about Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling), a nice, delusional young man everyone in his town likes, but Lars is dealing with a lot of problems. He's so shy and withdrawn it's painful. He can't stand being touched. He spends his evenings sitting in a chair in the small remodeled garage he lives in, just staring out the window at the snow. His brother, Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer), who live in the family house next to the garage, try to bring him into their lives.
Lars is so uncomfortable with others it takes a lot of persistence for Karin just to get him to walk a few yards over for dinner. But then Lars by chance sees a website that features love dolls. A few days later a large box is delivered to the family house. It's not long before Lars tells Gus and Karin that he'll be by for dinner...with his girlfriend, Bianca, a young woman who is confined to a wheelchair because she can't walk, doesn't speak English and is passive to a fault. The relationship is so innocent and touching that it soon is clear, helped by the family doctor played by Patricia Clarkson, that Lars may be trying to deal with his strangeness in his own way. And, says Dagmar the doctor, it would be best to accept his fantasies with matter-of-fact courtesy and understanding. Lars is doing no harm.
It's not long before everyone in town has not only met Bianca, but accepts her...and we know they are doing this because they care for Lars Lindstrom and want the best for him. As Bianca, with Lars by her side, goes to meetings and dances (she's even elected to the school board), we can see that Dagmar may be right about Lars.
What happens to Lars? What happens to Bianca? Let's just say that there is a death in the family and we later leave the movie happy and content. Lars and the Real Girl doesn't have a smirk or a smutty joke in sight. It's a touching and sweet movie, well acted, intelligently written and directed...and based on an absurd premise. But it all works.