First, let me be open and honest about what I had heard about this movie. Before this past weekend, I had never heard a thing about this movie - not a single, solitary word. Since he came on the scene many years ago, I have been a fan of Ryan Gosling. I'm not going to say I "love" all his movies, but there are definitely some I have really enjoyed, and when I hear one is coming out, I'll usually give it a look see. But this one, nothing. So, when we crossed paths this weekend while I was flipping channels, I nearly kept on flipping. But I stopped, gave it that look see, and was very glad I did.
"Lars and the Real Girl", directed by Craig Gillespie and written by Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver, is a heartfelt comedy starring Ryan Gosling as Lars Lindstrom, a lovable introvert whose emotional baggage has kept him from fully embracing life. From a scene at his office, where he and his cube mate Kurt (played by Maxwell McCabe-Lokos), have a very quick discussion about "anatomically correct love dolls from China" ... a "blink and you miss it" moment if ever there was one ... comes the major plot point in the movie. It becomes very apparent that he paid more attention to the conversation than we are led to believe.
When I realized what the plot of the movie was, I felt sure it was going to take a sharp turn into a world of lewdness and trash talking. There were so many ways "Lars and the Real Girl" could have gone wrong. And how refreshing it was to see how one of the film's fascinations was how skillfully it glided right by them! Its determination was to show Lars' story with absolute sincerity. What a pleasant surprise!
Roger Ebert summed up this movie very eloquently in his review:
How do you make a film about a life-sized love doll, ordered through the Internet, into a life-affirming statement of hope? In "Lars and the Real Girl", you do it with faith in human nature, and with a performance by Ryan Gosling that says things that cannot be said. And you surround him with actors who express the instinctive kindness we show to those we love.
We become a part of Lars' world ... one of pain, one of hurt, but also one of hope. Lars does not see what he is doing as crazy or irrational, and that's the beauty of it. There is purpose, and even though it doesn't make sense to anyone other than Lars, especially his brother Gus and sister-in-law Karin, played brilliantly by Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer, it makes perfect sense to Lars. It's only when Gus and Karin take Bianca (Lars "girlfriend") with Lars to see the family doctor, Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), that they begin to understand what is really going on. As does the viewer. That was one of the things I really loved about this movie - I felt pity for this young man, and my heart ached for him, and at no time does the storyteller try to sneak up on you, or withhold any information about what is going on. You feel like you have become a vested part of this man’s world, wanting to ride this roller coaster till the very end.
It's one of those movies you can't stop watching. As in life, things just have to be allowed to take their natural course. There is a moment in the movie, however, when things take a turn for Lars. You realize it is coming, and are very aware of what is about to happen in his world. Things are not so wonderful anymore, something has changed within him. If you think for a moment this movie is not a tearjerker, think again. This is the part of the story where everything comes crashing down, heart break become very apparent, and the inherent goodness of his family and town folk comes shining through.
I found the cast to be perfect for this movie … with many of the roles filled by some of my favorite actors. I honestly can’t come up with much that I felt was wrong with this movie, with the exception of it should have received more PR when it came out. I really enjoyed it, and I think a lot of people out there will too.
Realistic? Maybe not. But this is one feel good comedy that makes you yearn for a return to such a time.
Since I can't embed the link to the trailer for "Lars and the Real Girl", jump on over to YouTube and check it out there. You'll be glad you did.