Do you know anyone who is an outsider, a complete social misfit, .... who has no friends?
I had the pleasure of seeing “Lars and the Real Girl” yesterday. This film features writer Nancy Oliver and director Craig Gillespie. Kudos to them both. This tender and thought-provoking film is also very funny. Laugh-Out-Loud-Many-Times funny.
Let me start out by making one thing clear. This film is about a lonely, social misfit who purchases a life-size, anatomically correct girl over the Internet. Some of you may hear that premise, get offended and decide to pass on this film. That would be a mistake. You see, Lars is a recluse with extremely poor social skills. He also finds physical contact of any kind, even a gentle hug, to be truly physically painful. So Lars uses his doll, whom he calls Bianca, the same way a young child might use a teddy bear: simply as an imaginary friend. There is nothing erotic about this movie, and the rating is only PG-13. So, please, don’t avoid this film just because the sex doll thing might seem distasteful.
Now, with that out of the way let’s get into the film:
A little synopsis without giving too much away:
Lars is a recluse with extreme social anxiety. He goes to work and church, but is a complete loner. He’s a pitiful, odd duck with jerky body movements and excessive blinking. He lives in the detached garage of his brother and sister-in-law's house. Lars injects the inflatable Bianca with a personality and truly believes that Bianca is his girlfriend. Yes, our protagonist is completely delusional. He’s nuts. Like a child with a deep attachment to a favorite stuffed animal, Bianca is Lars’ constant companion. Lars comes alive as he nurtures Bianca, thrives from the joy of having a companion, and eventually falls in love with her. The local family doctor/ psychologist meets with Lars weekly and through these sessions, we learn about the psychological scars in Lars’ life and why Lars needs an imaginary friend in his life.
I just loved this film, and here are the reasons:
1. The unusual story, and the message. The protagonist is an oddball, a psychological mess with zero social skills. I’ve known several people in real life who are like that, and I bet you have too. Ryan Gosling, as Lars, was incredibly convincing in the role. In fact, it seemed as if the film were based upon the lives of a couple people I know in real life. This film quietly reminds us, that even psychologically disturbed people need human interaction, companionship, and someone to love. It’s a good and lasting message, and one I will try to remember more, as I see people who are a bit odd, folks who just don’t fit in, in normal society.
2. The acting. The acting in this film just blew me away. Every single character was perfect. The film takes place in a small Wisconsin town. The actors all seem like ordinary folks from the Midwest. Their mannerisms, speech and facial expressions are so perfect that it’s hard to believe they are acting. From Lars, to his caring sister-in-law and frustrated brother, to Lars’ coworkers and the various people in town. The local doctor and the local pastor. All of them have to react to the fact that Lars now has a constant companion, a beautiful lifesized, plastic doll, who is wheelchair bound. Those reactions, and how Bianca is ultimately accepted, and even manages to change some lives, is a central theme here. The acting is perfect, yet never overdone. They could have easily crossed the line into satire and zaniness, but instead, things are always kept lowkey and understated, and that adds immeasurably to this film’s success.
3. The psychological study. Through Lars’ sessions with the psychologist, as well as interactions with his brother, we learn why Lars is the way he is, and why he needed Bianca in his life at this particular time. The story is fairly complex and there is some interesting symbolism here.
4. The comedy. As you can imagine, the situation lends itself to all sorts of humorous possibilities. The reactions of Lars’ brother and sister-in-law the first time he brings Bianca to their house for dinner are priceless. All they know is that, for the first time, Lars is bringing a date. They are so happy for him. Then they meet ….. the silicone Bianca! Oh, I’m laughing once again as I type this. You just have to see that scene!
Then there are the facial expressions of the other people in the waiting room, when Lars brings Bianca to the doctor for a checkup. The reactions when Bianca goes to church. And on and on. I’m talking about Laugh Out Loud comedy.
Are there any negatives?
There was one scene, toward the end, that went too far. Up until that point, I was able to suspend disbelief and buy into the premise that all the townsfolk were eventually willing to accept Bianca into their lives. This one scene didn’t work for me, but that is a relatively minor quibble.
Did this film REALLY get a PG-13 rating? You're not saying I should take my children to see this smut, are you? Are you crazy?
First of all, calm down! Refreshingly, there is no foul language and no violence in this movie at all. Not even a car chase or an explosion. There are a few references to Bianca being an anatomically correct “sex doll”, but many of them are indirect, and would probably go right over the head of a child. There are absolutely no depictions of physical acts, beyond a single kiss, in the entire movie. On the other hand, young children would probably not find the subject matter interesting; nor would they understand much of the subtle humor.
This special, quirky film is extremely well acted, and manages to combine comedy with a psychological character study. Add to that some worthwhile take-home messages, and we have a winner here. I will be looking to see this one again. Oh, and I might just make more effort to be nicer to some people in my life who are harmless oddballs, as well.
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
This review is a part of Captain D's Good Movies Write off, found here: http://www.epinions.com/content_5110997124#ow
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