Lars and the Real Girl
Thanks to grounded performances from its top-notch cast, Lars and the Real Girl overcomes an ultra-quirky premise and develops into a thoughtful, albeit unusual, romance.
Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) doesn't like to call attention to himself. He flies under the radar of his small town, only leaving his garage apartment to go to church and work. He's not much of a conversationalist in general, and talking to women--even sweet co-worker Margo (Kelli Garner)--leaves him utterly tongue-tied. Until the advent of Bianca, that is. Long-limbed, silken-haired, and angelically selfless, Bianca is also a mail-order sex doll. But to Lars, she's the living, breathing embodiment of his feminine ideal. After local doctor Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) pronounces Lars delusional and advises his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and pregnant sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) to humor him until he works through whatever issues have prompted his break from reality, the whole town gets on board, accepting Bianca as one of their own to help make Lars happy.
Gosling--who's earned a reputation as one of the best actors of his generation in films as diverse as The Notebook and Half Nelson--continues his streak of impressive performances in Lars. Tremulous, tentative, and tenderhearted, Gosling ensures that Lars is never ridiculous...which isn't an easy feat when you're having imaginary conversations with an inanimate latex mannequin. You can see why everyone wants to help/humor him; crushing Lars' happiness would be like swatting a scared puppy with a newspaper. But Lars isn't the only character in the movie; he's surrounded by several excellent ''real girls.'' Clarkson is both confident and vulnerable as Dagmar, offering Lars the infinite patience and understanding he needs; Mortimer is earnest and funny as Karin; and Garner is charmingly authentic (and impressively understanding) as ever-hopeful Margo.
It would be all too easy for a movie like Lars and the Real Girl to fall victim to its own quirkiness. But director Craig Gillespie--in his feature-film debut--keeps things just grounded enough to be believable. Somehow, you buy the fact that the townspeople would not only accept but embrace Bianca. A lot of that is thanks to the talented cast and writer Nancy Oliver's script, which balances moments of silly humor and absurdity with scenes of heartfelt drama (her time as a scribe on Six Feet Under probably helped in that regard). But Gillespie deserves credit, too. Like its hero, Lars isn't perfect--it feels a bit long, and the central concept may be just a little too off-beat for some--but it has a good heart and means well, and you'll want to stick around to see how it turns out.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.