“Lars and the Real Girl”: Real Romance, Unreal Partner

In the 2007 comedy/drama Lars and the Real Girl, sweet and shy Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) lives with his older brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and Gus’s wife, Karin (Emily Mortimer) in a small town. Whereas the couple has moved into the house left behind by Lars’s father, who has died recently, Lars lives in the garage.

Lars wants a meaningful romantic relationship. So one day he just up and finds one—with Bianca, an inflatable doll he’s ordered from the internet.

Gus and Karin consult Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), a top physician in town who also serves as a “psychologist,” who says this about his “delusion”: “You know, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What we call mental illness isn’t always just an illness. It can be a communication; it can be a way to work something out.”

When neither of them can see themselves going along with this Bianca thing, which is what Dagmar wants them to do, she adds wisely, “Bianca’s in town for a reason.”

Some of this is conveyed in the Lars and the Real Girl trailer below:

Because Lars worries about Bianca’s health, he regularly takes her for medical visits, where it’s he who actually gets a chance to deal with some things with Dagmar. Meanwhile, the townspeople, including church members, join with the family to work on welcoming Bianca. Critic Andrew Sarris, New York Observer: “There is not a single crack of doubt or disbelief in the town’s massive wall of Biancatude.”

Dagmar turns out to be right—Lars is working something through. And he does eventually get to a better, realer place. I don’t want to say more about how this transpires. For that, I recommend you see this quirky little film.

Christy Lemire, Today.com: Through small gestures and bold choices, [Gosling’s] created a character you begin feeling sorry for and end up rooting for and almost envying, simply because he’s found something (someone?) that makes him feel whole and alive.

Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com: “There are so many ways ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ could have gone wrong that one of the film’s fascinations is how adroitly it sidesteps them. Its weapon is absolute sincerity. It is about who Lars is, and how he relates to this substitute for human friendship, and that is all it’s about.”

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