Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The Case for Plastic Companionship
The premise of Lars and the Real Girl is silly enough that C4 have taken to mocking it, and that it might seem to be more in the ilk of Superbad than a movie with any real emotional depth. But that is not the case.
Ryan Gosling plays the titular Lars, a painfully shy guy who hates being touched and prefers his own company, though he still goes to church. Then one day, he tells his brother and pregnant sister in law that he has brought home an internet girlfriend, and introduces them to Bianca, his life size silicon doll. The doll, it is quickly determined, is probably a crutch that he is (subconsciously) using to work through issues he currently has, so his relatives and the townsfolk in the small Alaskan village are asked to play along. And most do, besides those who think he is completely barking mad.
It sounds silly. And from time to time, especially with the “played for laughs” efforts made by the town to “accept” Bianca, it is. But despite that, the film is wonderful.
Gosling gets a lot of credit for playing the “damaged” Lars, but I reckon equal praise (if not more) should go to the supporting cast for playing the “normal” townsfolk in a completely believable and sympathetic way. In particular, Paul Schneider (as Lars’ brother Gus Lindstrom), Emily Mortimer (as Karin) and the always amazing Patricia Clarkson (as Doctor Dagmar) all act as credible anchors to the incredible main character(s). Paul Schneider in particular stands out, as showing emotional depth in a character designed to be every inch a “bloke” has got to be tough, but somehow he does it beautifully.
The packed Bergman theatre at the Paramount Cinema obviously loved the film as much as I did. We laughed, we occasionally sniffed, and we were all entranced. Believe the hype: this is a good film, though I am not sure it would be quite as enjoyable on a repeat viewing.
Verdict: Lars and the Real Girl is a wonderfully warm film, especially considering it all happens in the bleak Alaskan winter. There are some excesses with the townsfolk “buy in”, but then (I have to remind myself) this is a movie, not a documentary. Nine inflatable dolls out of ten.