By: Katy Kleinginna (Three Beers) –
“I’m a real boy!”…er, girl, actually.
The title character, played by the “much-too-charming-to-date-a-sex-doll” Ryan Gosling, slips farther away from reality with each passing scene. As Lars falls deeper in love with “Bianca”, his small, tidy world opens up to the wonders of the real world he seems to wish he could live in. As the film progresses, you are left wondering how far is too far when the delusion of one quiet loner becomes the reality of everyone else. When the real world starts rearing it’s ugly, adult ways, the character is left to fend for himself when the compassionate intentions of the supporting characters are lost in Lars’ unyielding self pity party.
This film has heart. I know what you’re all thinking. When a review says a movie “has heart”, that’s the equivalent of saying a girl “has a great personality” or is “so fun to be with.” On the surface the film is another indie nod to the lives of the every day fellow, but it hits home for those of us just trying to make it through the day with the ones we love. Lars is just like the rest of us, even those of us who don’t tote around life-sized sex dolls and claim them as significant others. He wants love and affection, even though he compares the feeling of a hug to that of the effects of frost bite wearing off. Whether you fall in love with Lars as a character or not, it’s easy to fall prey to Gosling’s charm and see past the character’s tangible awkwardness.
Take a drink because Gosling looks like a kind, awkward Mr. Rogers.
Gosling has enough charm and passion to bring Lars to life, but any other actor would tread very thin ice playing this role. Lars speaks quickly with each sentence ending in a generic “hands in pockets” and a brisk shuffle away from any interaction that could end in time spent with other living beings. Gosling’s career is mostly filled with sexy characters who only know the love of equally sexy women. (i.e- The Notebook, Gangster Squad, everything Gosling has ever acted in.)
This film allowed Gosling to break free of his typecast and breathe life into a new role, but at a very strange cost. The suspension of disbelief required for this film is unprecedented in any of Gosling’s other films. The audience is expected to believe that a man of Gosling’s physical caliber would be left scanning the internet for a potential life mate. Though attractive men are not always social butterflies, it is hard to believe that a man on the charts in the “sexiest man alive” class would be left alone to fend for himself. It’s a sweet film and an even sweeter character, but let’s not fool ourselves too much.
If THIS can’t swing a gal pal, what should the rest of us expect?!
Everyone else in the film that isn’t Gosling requires a beer. The supporting actors each serve their own purpose, whether it’s the overbearing old woman at church who just wants Lars to “settle down and have kids” or if it’s the overly curious sister-in-law (resembled much too carefully by the beautiful, petite Emily Mortimer playing the role of Karin Lindstrom.)
Mortimer’s character is important because she serves as the origin of the public outcry that serves as the backbone of the film. Without this character, the film would be stuck in the odd, hermit-esque life of Lars. Karin Lindstrom is the maternal figure who just wants the best for her sweet, adult baby Lars. Not that her kind words and loving touch detract from the film, but the character is a little hard to stomach based on her inability to see past the childish needs of Lars into his repressed, borderline psychotic persona. Lindstrom’s character takes a while to grow up, but in a quick, shrill scene of personal despair she decides the charade is over and that Lars should face his own future. Tears, chaos, and a personality for Lars are quickly established after the first snap Karin goes through.
The film is sweet, kind, and a good watch, however it is easily comparable to a “social justice” pop song. There’s an easily accessible message and quality, but there is no driving force behind the message of the film. Those searching for meaning in the film will leave with tears in their eyes and a heavy heart, but those looking for a feel good flick are better left to the catchy tunes on the radio that plead for a second chance, but can’t break free of the mindless top 40 charts. At the very least, Lars and the Real Girl will spark a conversation among friends, but may not yet find mainstream attention.
Take a Drink: when Karin stares quizzically at Lars and her husband gets annoyed
Take a Drink: when Bianca’s entrance is met with either a “shocked, open mouth gaze” or a stifled chuckle
Do a Shot: when Lars looks so uncomfortable he just might pee himself
Do a Shot: when Mortimer’s voice reaches over into ear drum shattering, screech territory
Take a Drink: when word of Lars dating a sex doll spreads like wildfire and every townsmen has some quirky quip or sex advice