Movies Worth Seeing: Lars & The Real Girl November 22, 2007Posted by Jim Berkin in Movies.
Though it has the veneer of comedy, and while it certainly offers funny moments, Lars & The Real Girl ultimately portrays the course of a delusional breakdown of its main character, a man whose inability to deal with past family tragedy has led him to repress nearly all the possibilities of connections with the people around him beyond the levels of casual, polite and courteous.
Lars (Ryan Gosling in another Oscar-worthy performance) withdraws from people and finds it literally painful to physically touch anyone. When a co-worker shows him a website advertising the Real Doll, he orders one and then descends into an elaborate fantasy that “Bianca” the doll is his girlfriend visiting from Brazil. He “converses” with her and introduces her to people as if she is real. His brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer), while concerned about Lars’ sanity, play along with the delusion and construct a ruse of sorts to have him regularly meet with a local doctor (Patricia Clarkson) who winds up doubling as an ersatz-therapist.
What makes this movie special, however, is the way it depicts all the people in the small town and how they ALL play along with Lars’ delusion, treating “Bianca” as if she is a real person, in order to help Lars and ultimately get him to work through his problems. This provides for a lot of “quirky small-town” type comic bits, but what we ultimately wind up with is a clever depiction of the good in people, their capacity for understanding and especially tolerance, and the various ways in which people can reach out to each other – a damaged ability that Lars slowly relearns by the end of the film. In a way, this movie reminded me of the documentary from a few years back, Brother’s Keeper, since it showed how a small tightly-knit town of people understood the eccentricities of their own and would protectively act to prevent someone to spiral downwards beyond any hope of saving. Now, Brother’s Keeper was certainly much more creepy and involved defensive reactions from said townsfolk against misunderstanding outsiders, but I got the same vibe nonetheless.
Gosling’s performance was wonderfully subtle – he perfected a number of nervous tics to depict Lars’ discomfort with physical and social contacts with people, and even when Lars was happy to some extent, Gosling manages to convey inner pain beneath his smiles, and manages his purposeful lack of eye contact with fellow characters perfectly, even in moments when Lars is growing more relaxed around people. Gosling has amazing control and concentration over his facial expressions and especially his body language here, and creates a whole and believable character throughout the movie.
Movies like this, which depict the good things that people are capable of, must be seen and supported in an age where Hollywood continually cranks out reprehensible crud like torture porn masquerading as classical horror movies, film after film in which traditional heroes are torn down and depicted as hypocrites with the usual dose of morally relativist deconstructionist bullshit thrown in for good measure, or the seemingly endless line of films made by comfortably cocooned and pampered multi-millionaires telling the rest of us rabble how irredeemably evil our society is because of, well… people like us.
I will NOT name any specific examples to illustrate my rant! So there!
But seriously, see Lars & The Real Girl. You’ll be glad you did.