Lars and the Real Girl – DVD Review

larsrealgirl
Available at Amazon.com

How can a movie about a man falling in love with a sex doll be about anything other than sex? Along those lines, how can a movie about a man falling in love with a sex doll be good, let alone be not about sex? Somehow, against all odds, Lars and the Real Girl has done it.

Lars Linstrom, played with perfection by Ryan Gosling, is a 27-year-old misfit who is the very definition of social awkwardness. He lives in a secluded town in the Northern Midwest in the garage turned apartment next to his parent’s old house. His mother passed away when he was a baby and his father passed away more recently. His parent’s house is now occupied by his older brother Gus (Paul Schnieder) and his pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer). Despite Karin’s pleading and persistent invitations to dinner, Lars remains a recluse in the garage.

One day at Lars’ obviously unfulfilling office job, a co-worker comes across a Web site for life-sized sex dolls while surfing for porn. Six weeks later, Lars receives a phone call at work from Karin informing him that a large crate has arrived for him at home. This is the first time Lars shows any emotion resembling “happy”, as a warm comforting smile slowly forms across his face. Later that evening, after he has opened his package, Lars does the unthinkable: he happily invites himself over to his brother and sister-in-law’s house for dinner, announcing he has a female friend.

He introduces her as Bianca. She’s a missionary with nurses training of Swedish and Brazilian descent who loves kids. In Lars’s mind, she is a real person, not at all a sex doll. He doesn’t even think about her in that way. She’s his perfect companion. Early on, Bianca gets sick and needs to go to the doctor. Karin suggests they take her to their family doctor, Dagmar (played by the immensely talented Patricia Clarkson), who also happens to be a psychologist. During the course of Bianca’s treatment, Dagmar also treats Lars without him knowing about it, coercing him from his “delusion”.

Also going on in the film is an actual real girl, Margo (Kelli Garner), Lars’s co-worker, who has a real-life crush on him. Lars finds himself torn between the two women.

This is the script that should have won the Oscar for Best Screenplay over Diabolo Cody’s Juno. Nancy Oliver has allowed for such freedom in the characters who find themselves in a situation that could easily take a left turn into inappropriate. Never does the film make fun of anything that is going on. It takes itself seriously, but with compassion. And even though Lars and the Real Girl could technically be classified as a drama, it has so much comedy in it! This is a genuinely funny movie. One of the funniest moments is early on when we’re just beginning to learn how socially awkward Lars really is: a lady at church hands him a carnation and tells him to “give it to someone nice”. Margo walks by and says hi to him and his first reaction is to throw the carnation. I had to go back and watch it again, I was laughing so hard.

Such compassion only holds so much on paper, the rest must be carried out by the cast. What a wonderful cast we have here. Ryan Gosling gives the performance of his life as Lars. He gives the character a surreal amount of dimension. In one of the extras on the DVD, the director Craig Gillespie talks about some of the improvisation that Gosling put into the movie that is “heartbreaking” to watch. This improvisation is seen during his interaction with Bianca. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is Lars laying on the ledge of his childhood treehouse with his feet in the air singing “L is for the way you look at me…”, switching back and forth between his own singing voice and a falsetto, singing both parts of a duet. It’s so sweet and funny. Emily Mortimer, Paul Schnieder, Patricia Clarkson, everyone here is outstanding.

Had I made a list of my top films of 2007, this would have been on that list. Lars and the Real Girl may have gone under your radar because it’s about a man that falls in love with a sex doll. And I’ll be the first to admit: I’m a sucker for sappy movies with life lessons that tug at your heartstrings. But trust me in this, you will be surprised at how much Lars and the Real Girl has to offer.

In Dolby Digital surround sound with English and Spanish subtitles. The film is presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

The Real Story of Lars and the Real Girl – Don’t be fooled by the title, this is not a movie based on a true story. This is just a behind the scenes featurette with interviews with the cast, director, and screenwriter.

A Real Leading Lady – This is a very funny featurette in which the members of the cast and crew talk about Bianca like she was real. They talk about how it took her two hours to get camera ready every day and about how particular she was about things. Some of the funniest parts are of Ryan Gosling and Bianca sitting together, bantering back and forth.

One Deleted Scene entitled “Bathtub” that is extremely short.

Previews on the DVD include The Music Within, Juno, and The Savages.

I truly love everything about this movie. I love the way it embraces humanity and loves every character for who they are and asks the audience to be better people. Not only would Lars and the Real Girl have been in my top films of 2007, but I have a feeling this movie will be making its way into my top films of all time.

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MGM presents Lars and the Real Girl. Directed by Craig Gillespie. Starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schnieder, Patricia Clarkson. Written by Nancy Oliver. Running time: 107 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: April 15, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.