Lars and the Real Girl is about a 27 year old man, Lars, who falls in love with a sex doll. Sure, it sounds kinky, but as the director of the film points out,
The premise of the movie just doesn’t do justice to the journey that you go on.
-Craig Gillespie, director of Lars and the Real Girl
Lars is a guy who lives in the garage of his childhood home. His older brother Gus lives in the house with Karin, his pregnant wife. Lars is painfully shy, literally. He lives in a small town and works in an office and wears plaid shirts. Everyone knows him and is really friendly but while he’s polite he really prefers to just be by himself. One day at work the guy who shares his cubicle shows him a website selling “Real Girls”, customizable, life sized, anatomically-correct sex dolls. While Lars mutters something about it being too early in the morning for porn, six weeks later a large wooden crate arrives at his garage.
The doll itself isn’t really the shock in this movie, chances are you’ve heard aboutit, read the back of the DVD cover, whatever. So you’re ready for the doll, the surprising part is the position it takes within the film. How its presence is first revealed to Gus and Karin, for example. Lars pays them a visit and explains that he has a visitor. They met on the internet and she doesn’t know much English. Of course they say he should bring her over for dinner. So Lars introduces them to Bianca. She’s a missionary. She’s half Brazilian and half Danish and loves helping people. Lars believes in Bianca. He has conversations with her, she has her own place at the table, and he considers her feelings in everything.
It’s interesting the way that with everything you know at this point, the premise, the situation with Lars in love with an artificial person, the rest of the film – peoples’ reactions, their attitudes towards Lars etc, are still really surprising. The local doctor explains to Gus and Karin that Bianca is a delusion of Lar’s, a delusion created to help him cope with something he is missing. What should they do about it? Go along with it. How long will it continue? As long as he needs it. So they start playing along. This movie is about people and relationships and connections – if you’re waiting to see a man have wild crazy sex with a doll, sorry, this isn’t that kind of movie. From the beginning Lars asks that Bianca can stay with Gus and Karin in their spare room. He respects her, and loves her.
The film is as much about the people closest to Lars as about him himself. What would you do if you found out your brother was in love with a doll, and believed that she was a real person? There’s a great scene where Gus and Karin are bathing Bianca together
Gus: What are we doing? Why are we doing this for him?
Karin: Oh, come on. It’s funny!
Gus: Is it?
Karin: I don’t know… I don’t know, maybe not.
This is a recurring issue in the film. You aren’t asked to just accept the fact that Lars is in love with a doll and move on to “enjoy the ensuing hilarity”, you’re constantly laughing, because everything seems to be going great, everyone’s having fun, Lars is really happy, then stopping yourself and thinking “wait, is this ok? That’s not healthy. He’s really unwell…”. It’s that kind of swinging between heartwarming and tragic.
Lars was played by Ryan Gosling, who some of us remember from the days of Young Hercules and who all of us fell in love with in The Notebook. He does another crazy awesome job in this film, mastering the warm, blank smiles and awkward silences that make Lars unique. I always find it really interesting when an actor can use the smallest habit or tic to create an entire character. Obviously it’s not that easy, but it just seems so natural. Lars has this habit of blinking frequently and harder than normal. But again it’s not just about Lars. Other really great characters include Karin, the pregnant sister-in-law. She is obsessively caring. I love watching her stalk Lars, hunting him down to force him to accept an invitation to dinner. And how excited she is when she heres that Lars has met someone, then watching her emotions just turn to shock when she meets Bianca. She and Gus have their own arc throughout the film, and other special characters include church member Mrs. Gruner and the doctor Dagmar.
One thing I like about about the film so much is that it really has a lot of affection for its characters and for people in general. It really believes that people want to do the right thing.
This film isn’t a freakshow, and it’s not about conflict. It brings up questions of communication, understanding, relationships and love.
Bianca. She is a “Real Doll” doll, made by a company that produces “love dolls”. I was actually surprised by how unreal she looked, but in some scenes she was pretty life-like, like when she sits cross-legged on her bed listening to Lars reading to her, or in the shot from behind them as they sit beside the lake looking like a real couple. The dolls and the company that makes them are real, you can find them through a Google search, but a warning that the dolls and the site are R18.
Lars and the Real Girl isn’t action-packed, but it is really involving and emotional. A quiet winner. You can check out the trailer on YouTube.
Director: Craig Gillespie
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer,