Lars and the Real Girl is an SNL sketch reconfigured as quirky-corny Sundance pap. Fresh from his lumbering mainstream debut Mr. Woodcock, director Craig Gillespie (working from a script by Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver) switches gears to deliver clumsily earnest indie drama in which overcast hues and sincere music adorn a story to groan over. Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a 27-year-old basket case afraid of any physical human contact (it hurts!) and incapable of properly socializing with cubicle co-workers or his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer). In a decidedly ungainly performance, the usually reliable Gosling resorts at every turn to gimmicky mannerisms, scrunching up his face as if constipated, darting his eyes about like a child with ADD, and quickly turning his head this way and that like a shy, freaky bird. The film’s painfully cute, eccentric conceit is that Lars, in desperate need of companionship, purchases a Real Girl online—a customized, anatomically correct sex doll he names Bianca—and, instead of using her to get his rocks off, begins introducing her to everyone around town as his girlfriend. He’s delusional with a capital D, though the small town’s ensuing efforts to help Lars work through his severe mental problems by playing along with this charade are even more preposterous. Bianca has her hair styled, does some charitable volunteering, attends church and parties, and sees a doctor (Patricia Clarkson) who also counsels Lars, with any initial community derision soon replaced by altruistic compassion. Gus wisely opines that his brother should be institutionalized, yet despite Gillespie’s realistic depiction of his chilly rural milieu, what he’s truly after is sweet fairy-tale nonsense in which screwy psychological fantasies are cast as handy therapeutic vehicles for those in need of sorting out lingering mommy and daddy issues. That the film assumes rational adults will tolerate such an inane premise being played for straight poignancy is not only stunning and depressing, but more than a little insulting as well.
- Craig Gillespie
- Nancy Oliver
- Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner, Patricia Clarkson, Nancy Beatty, Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, Karen Robinson
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