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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 21.28%
Average: 29.79%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Lars and the Real Girl
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Eugene Novikov

"Least likely good movie of the year?"
3 stars

The conceit sounds either obnoxious or disturbing. A lonely twenty-something misfit brings a new girlfriend home to his family, except that to his family's bewilderment, the girlfriend turns out to be a life-sized "love doll" named Bianca. The only reasonable reaction to that pitch is to conclude that nothing good can come of it -- no way, no how. Anything that results will be vulgar, or stupid, or insufferably precious, or all three.

To say that Lars and the Real Girl transcends its logline, then, is a vast understatement. The profoundly strange high concept still limits it, sadly, but screenwriter Nancy Oliver and director Craig Gillespie (Mr. Woodcock) throw a curve by playing the material almost completely straight. We are informed, almost as an afterthought, that Bianca is in fact anatomically correct, but the film never returns to that piece of information again. It's careful, and sweet, and entirely lovable.

What's interesting is the way that what begins as a joke -- the denizens of Lars' (Ryan Gosling) sleepy northern town being forced to treat Bianca as a human being -- ends up at the heart of the film. Oh, people will still laugh, and to some extent Lars and the Real Girl eggs them on (at one point we are told that Bianca got elected to the school board), but at a certain point the appropriate reaction becomes smiling through tears. Everyone around Lars, from with his brother and his brother's wife (Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer) to his priest, his co-workers, and his doctor, band together to get him through his bizarre crisis. The movie sneaks up on you with just how moving that is. Oliver and Gillespie have a deadpan style that never lets up or starts trending toward the maudlin, but rather takes on new meaning as the film progresses.

Lars, for his part, remains somewhat of a mystery. We get the sense that his "delusion" is some sort of self-imposed construct -- at one point his brother tells him flat-out that Bianca is just a "big plastic thing," and Lars simply ignores him. It soon becomes clear that Lars will have to navigate himself out in ways that make sense within the story he's created; the first good sign comes when he informs us that Bianca has rejected his marriage proposal. We never learn whether the affair is genuine mental illness or a cry for help and attention that takes on a life of its own, and the movie doesn't care to diagnose Lars except to assure us that he's deeply lonely and deeply troubled -- he hates to be touched, likening the sensation to the burning one feels in one's extremities upon coming in from the cold. The notion that he may be a pathological narcissist occurred to me, but I don't think it occurred to the film, which does not sanction such cynicism.

A large part of the reason that Lars and the Real Girl is able to brush such thoughts away is Ryan Gosling's remarkable performance in the title role. With none of the hard edges he displayed in Half Nelson and Fracture (never mind The Believer), he makes Lars into someone gentle and sad without being mopey, displaying awesome comic timing and a preternatural sense for the way years and years of mounting insecurities might plausibly manifest themselves in the character's body language and speech. Most amazing is the extent to which he creates a convincing and touching relationship between Lars and a life-sized mannequin. Degree of difficulty: High.

Needless to say, that goes for the film as a whole. Lars and the Real Girl winds up feeling a little bit thin, and the lack of insight into Lars' brain turns into a liability once the course of the story becomes inevitable. But Jesus -- who knew a movie about a man and his doll could be so funny, poignant and tender?

(Reprinted from

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originally posted: 10/12/07 16:53:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Boston Film Festival For more in the 2007 Boston Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/30/10 MP Bartley A lovely and beautiful film. 5 stars
7/05/08 AnnieG A truly unique film with a small town I'd LIKE to live in. 4 stars
5/18/08 ed moriartystrange strange premise but hopeful ending 4 stars
3/18/08 jcjs33 astounding, art, clever, acting, music, touching, original, captivating, refreshing, large 5 stars
11/19/07 Jacob This guy slams on Gosling? This particular critic continues to carve out horrible reviews. 5 stars
11/11/07 baron touching, well-acted, and thought-provoking 5 stars
10/30/07 Darren Shea A sweet movie with a good balance between humor and poignancy 4 stars
10/28/07 Private Finds the right tone and makes for an enjoyable character driven film. 4 stars
10/27/07 Elizabeth Nice performances by the three leads. 3 stars
10/18/07 Pontifico Great movie! You should see it yesterday! 5 stars
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  12-Oct-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 15-Apr-2008



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