Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Lars and the Real Girl ***
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer,
Paul Schneider, Patricia Clarkson, Kelli Garner, Nancy Beatty
"You are who you love. Not what loves you."
Lars Lindstrom (Gosling) is a 27 year old who lives in the garage of the house he shared with his recently deceased father. The main house is inhabited by his brother Gus (Schneider) and his wife Karin (Mortimer) who worry about Lars' constant loneliness.
One day Lars knocks at their door to introduce them to his girlfriend Bianca, a human size sex doll he purchased after a guy from work showed him the website.
Not knowing how to react to this, Gus and Karin seek help from Dagmar (Clarkson), the town's psychologist who tells them to let Lars exorcise whatever demons he has and play along with his delusion.
Before long they have also seeked help from all the townspeople, who are so fond of Lars that they follow along and treat Bianca like a living human being.
And then before our very eyes, a movie about a sex toy turns into a beautiful romance about how being different has nothing to do with right or wrong.
To avoid making a story that would fall into Farrelly brothers territory, the filmmakers and cast tap into a state of utter sincerity that make everything plausible.
Gosling's performance is a thing of pure beauty, he gives Lars a soft voice, a heartbreaking smile and a blink now and then, which seem to give him confidence that he isn't dreaming.
Lars is a man who has suffered much and is so delicate that human touch causes pain, which is why Bianca, who he can manipulate at his will, becomes the perfect companion. With any other actor you would've doubted Lars' real intentions and expect some sort of betrayal after you trusted in him, but with Gosling you find yourself within the character.
Mortimer is particularly moving as she evolves from a nosey young woman into someone who has found intense love for others within her impending motherhood.
Schneider makes his best to try and play the skeptical, proud older brother, but he can never hide the pain and guilt that make him feel responsible for his little brother.
And while everyone in the ensemble is terrific, Beatty as the wise and brutally honest Mrs. Gruner steals every scene she's in.
It is she who reminds the church elders of their flaws in order to let them accept Lars for who he is.
Gillespie's ethereal direction avoids falling into extreme indie territory and all of his elements recall the places where Frank Capra set his tales of problematic, but ultimately hopeful redemption.
But the film would be nothing without Nancy Oliver's detailed, wonderful screenplay. She makes you believe in fantasy beyond the sexual connotation originally intended for Bianca.
Her script, a product just as much as the doll, reminds us that life constantly shows us new perspectives on even the worst things.
Her fantasy extends into a time and place where people not only help each other, but in the realm of acceptance, company and understanding also have become to deeply love each other.
If a plastic doll can move you to tears and inspire compassion, just imagine what the grumpy downstairs neighbor might do!