Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Craig Gillespie

“I wish I had a woman that couldn’t talk”


Lars And The Real Girl

When almost all of filmdom was heaping praises over Jason Reitman’s refreshing flick Juno (2007), another quiet little independent film had made its mark. Craig Gillespie‘s Lars and the Real Girl (2007) is a little treasure in independent cinema and is as good as the former, if not better. Sadly, the judging panel for the academy seemed to overlook the film and give the nods to Juno. Regrets apart, meditation on modern alienation and urban loneliness has never been so amusing!

Lars (Ryan Gosling), as the title suggests is the lead in the story. He lives in the garage of the house where his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) live. He is everything that the word “loner” stands for. He speaks economically and eludes from attention. He never comes out of his closed structure except for the occasional church visit. The human touch burns him and he wears multiple clothes to avoid one. Additionally, he works in an office one of whose employees Margo (Kelli Garner), an enthusiastic female in search of love, tries to win his attention, in vain. Meanwhile, Gus and Karin are also trying to break Lars’ self built shell.

One fine day, Lars receives a parcel from one of the internet sites that sells adult toys and lo! – It is a life size (and anatomically correct!) female doll. He gives life to it and starts treating “her” with respect. We feel as creepy as the characters even though the title of the film has made us cautious. Lars seems to open up to the world after the arrival of Bianca (that’s what he calls the doll). She is everything he is and isn’t. Lars bestows her with everything he likes and everything he dislikes. She is his opening to the real world and the conduit of his suppressed emotions and troubled past.

Gus and Karin decide to consult Dr. Dogmar (Patricia Clarkson) in the pretext of treating Bianca so that Lars visits the doc regularly. Here is where we slowly learn that Lars is fully aware of his situation and Bianca is his method of shedding his shell. She is not a product of his frustration but a tool that clears it. As it becomes evident that it is Lars who is responsible for his own cure, everyone decides to play along till the golden day arrives.

The film’s biggest asset is perhaps Ryan Gosling’s quiet brilliance that is definitely a shining bullet in his résumé. It looks like he is leading the race among the young crowd of Hollywood, all of whom seem like tailor-made for teen comedies. His restrained performance as the titular character leverages his critically acclaimed role in Half Nelson (2006) that fetched him a nomination for the best leading actor and makes him the most promising young actor in industry now. Scenes such as the teddy bear rescue and the dinner table conversation give a glimpse of this handsome young man’s talents and he can rest assured that he is going to be around for a long time.

Though it can be categorized in the conventional feel good flick category all of which are instant hits, Lars and the Real girl avoids all traps that films of its kind usually succumb to. Primarily, with a plot line as bizarre as the one it has, any director would be tempted to flood the script with a deluge of raunchy jokes and the target audience would have drastically changed. But Gillespie eschews all that and yet makes the film light-hearted all the way.

Also, and most importantly, Gillespie never begs for sympathy for Lars. It is easy for a director to paint the screen with the protagonist’s helplessness and hence gain unwarranted attention towards the characters. But Gillespie appeals to the audience to accept Lars as he is. Lars is just another person in the village though the rest of the public start giving excessive attention to him for his condition. One of the characters in the film says “These things happen” and that is all what it is.