Sunday, 2 September 2012

Lars and the Real Girl

Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is a shy and retiring man living in the garage of his brother and sister-in-law’s house. He frequently tries to avoid contact with his friends, co-workers and family and when he does have to interact with others, conversation is stilted before Lars is able to escape. Despite the obvious interest of colleague Margo (Kelli Garner) Lars has no girlfriend so his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and Sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) are shocked when one day Lars appears at their front door with the news that he has a house guest; a wheelchair bound, half Brazilian, half Danish missionary whom he met on the internet. Gus and Karin are initially overjoyed that Lars has met something but are soon startled to discover that ‘Bianca’ is in fact a Real Doll sex doll whom Lars is convinced is a real person. Worried about his mental health his family and friends all rally around Lars and attempt to welcome Bianca into the community while trying to get Lars the help that he so obviously needs.

The term rollercoaster ride of emotions is a little bit tacky and overused but it applies here. Every few seconds while watching this film I went from laugh out loud laughter to shock to sadness and back again. The film manages to be incredibly uplifting, sad and funny, often at the same time and features some great acting and an astonishing and original script.

Ryan Gosling, looking slightly, and thankfully more squidgy round the edges than in recent times delivers a fantastic performance, full of little ticks and peculiarities. His lack of comfort amongst people becomes apparent from the very first scene and you are on his side all the way through, even though what is happening is completely mental. His character is the sort of guy you just want to hug and help and it’s really endearing to see what lengths the majority of his community will go to in order to get him well again. This film has further cemented my opinion that he, along with Tom Hardy is one of the greatest actors of his generation. The film is littered with great performances though, often expressed through the reactions the actors have to Lars and Bianca. Jaws drop to the floor and people can’t help but stare as a young man pushes a sex doll around in a wheel chair while talking to it. Pan Am’s Kelli Garner plays co-worker Margo and much like Gosling ‘de-beatifies’ herself here to look quite awkward and uncomfortable. She has similar ticks and quirks to Gosling and right from the start you know they are perfect for each other. Unfortunately mental illness gets in the way. Emily Mortimer is excellent as the deeply caring Sister-in-law and Paul Schneider provides some of the biggest laughs with his facial expressions and face palms.

As well as being incredibly funny the reasons behind Lars’ illness which become apparent as the film progresses are also deeply moving. It’s evident all along that Lars is a sweet man who despite his flaws loves his family very much and the fact that he develops these delusions as a response to changes in his and their lives is profoundly tender and charming. Something else that the film manages to do is to present an affable view of Christianity. If more religious people could treat others who are different in the same way as some of the parishioners at Lars’ church then perhaps people like me wouldn’t despise their religion so much. The community that Lars lives in has the feels of an America now lost where everyone knows everyone and are friendly to their neighbour. It feels like 50s America to me. Something else which furthers this idea is the lack of smut and innuendo. Ted is one of my favourite films of the year so far but that sort of humour just wouldn’t have worked here. Although Bianca is a lifelike sex doll her sexual parts barely get a mention and her breasts and vagina are never even seen. This is the sort of film which you could happily watch with children.

The film appeared to have a profound impact on the person sitting next to me when I watched it. One moment she was laughing her head off then she had her mouth covered in shock and by the end she was in tears. To me, that’s the sign of a successful film – even if the same person somewhat worryingly kept saying I reminded them of Lars…

Lars and the Real Girl is a delightful and moving film which puts a smile on your face and a tear in your eye. It’s wonderfully arresting and exceptionally funny and contains one of the most unusual and original scripts I’ve seen in a long time, plus some tremendous acting from a great cast.      


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