Lars and the Real Girl ***1/2
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Moving on we have a film that was one of the biggest hits of the festival. It's the long awaited, and much buzzed about, "Lars and the Real Girl," where actor Ryan Gosling is getting similar buzz about an Oscar nomination as he did for his last big film "Half Nelson"-which I found a bit overrating, to be honest. But this film I really did like, a movie which takes a rather absurd story and turns it into something strongly heartfelt and moving, and very very funny. I haven't seen "Mr. Woodcock" yet, but it's by the same director as this. And even though its coming out first, "Lars and the Real Girl" is his directing debut, which makes me think about "Mr. Woodcock" in a different light. But I'll talk about that more when I see "Mr. Woodcock" later in the week.
Anyway this film is about Lars, a quiet young man, clad with a moustache and button down shirts, who likes to keep to himself. This seems to bother his sister in law, Karin (played by Emily Mortimer), and she is always trying to get him to come over for breakfast. In a lesser film this would somehow connect to a love story between the two, but this is much smarter than that. It introduces a third party interested in Lars, but for different reasons, his co-worker Margo (played by Kelli Garner.) But Lars is not into human relationships, and instead ends up ordering an anatomically correct doll which he named Bianca, and begins to carry her around everywhere as if she were a real person. And while his brother begins to dismiss the fact that Bianca may be a reality, Karin ends up hiring a shrink (played by the indispensable Patricia Clarkson) to get more to the root of Lars problem.
You could probably see how Hollywood could have ruined this script. I could see this being an R-rated vehicle, with much more crude and raunchy humor about the doll than this film actually has, but then the movie would have been a struggle to get through. Instead it manages to take an absurd and crazy story, and inject so much human emotion throughout. We see the entire small town "play along" to Lars, and they all act as if Bianca is a real human being. This leads to the questions about what makes this real and what makes them not. Are they real when we put some kind of value on them? This all leads up to one of the most satisfying finales in a long time-both heartwarming and heartbreaking. Gosling pulls off this performance, walking around and having heartfelt talks with a doll, but never looks crazy to the audience. This is all done with such style, and after the awkward beginning with the doll first making her appearance, you get used to it. Whenever Bianca would come out after the hour mark, nobody would laugh. She was just a regular character.
(I would have liked to ask the director if they used different dummies for the various scenes with Bianca, as she always looked different as the film progressed. But I had to leave during the Q&A.)