Men, especially in Los Angeles, are often accused of going after ‘plastic’ women. Though the word plastic is used metaphorically to describe dull, flirty, materialistic party girls, it is explored in the literal sense in “Lars and the Real Girl.”
Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is a quiet, socially inept young man whose only social activities include attending church and his daily office job. He lives in a guesthouse on the backside of his brother’s (Paul Schneider) home (just picture the opposite of Gosling’s romantic, lady savvy character in “The Notebook”). He even ignores flirtations from his girl-next-door work colleague, Margo (Kelli Garner).
Never wanting to even visit his brother Gus and his brother’s wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) for regular meals or visits, Lars is the epitome of a loner character. One day, however, Lars announces that he has a guest staying with him. Shocked, Gus and Karin prepare dinner for the four of them, before even catching a glimpse of Lars’s guest, Bianca. Maybe that was a bad decision.
When Lars brings Bianca over, they are face-to-face with a life-size doll, complete with fishnet stockings and a leather skirt. It is a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” for the modern century. Rather than dealing with the issue of race, however, this film deals with the issue of a sex doll versus a human.
Lars seems to know the complete history of Bianca: her childhood, her origins, her education, etc. He also notes that she does not speak very much English.
Gus is un-accepting and embarrassed for his brother. He is angry that Karin is accepting and believing of his new “friend.” They choose to solve the problem by tricking Lars into thinking that they are taking Bianca for a checkup when really, they are taking him to see a therapist, Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson). She allows Lars to believe in the fantasy that he has a girlfriend.
The rest of the small town, though confused at first, soon accepts Bianca with open arms. Gus, however, is the only one hesitant to dive into the reality world with the rest of the town. He is the cynical voice of realism in this film. Schneider stands out as a image-conscious happily married man trying to forget emotional baggage from this past.
The fact that this film covers so many themes about human character and emotion in 106 minutes long is what makes “Lars and the Real Girl” so refreshingly original and unique. The film rotates around the fear many have: going out and meeting new people. Though most singles try to disguise this fear through many glasses (or bottles) of alcohol, it is apparent in almost every city. Lars gets around this fear by ordering a sex doll (though it is hinted that he never uses it for that purpose) that he can control the relationship with. He can stage their fights, plans their dates, eat her food, and, well, he does not even have to worry about calling her. His fear for human intimacy can be ignored while he lives in this fantasy relationship.
Lars is suddenly able to attend social events with a date. It eases him into the real world through use of a plastic companion (Church, parties, you name it—she’ll be there, on time). With the life story of Bianca easily recited to everyone, Lars gains easy access in the community.
Gosling grows outside his past roles of complex characters, including his 2006 Oscar-nominated role as Dan Dunne, a teacher for underprivileged students, in “Half-Nelson.”
“Lars and the Real Girl” takes a serious topic and makes it into a digestible, light comedy. You can’t help but laugh when Lars describes her as a “missionary” and escorts her to church in a wheelchair. However, the comical bits in the film allow us to see the real meaning of the plot – a shy, awkward, emotionally damaged man trying to survive in a fast-paced world. Directed by Craig Gillespie, whose only past directing credits include “Mr. Woodcock,” flourishes along writer Nancy Oliver (“Six Feet Under”) to create an original, smart comedy. Human affection is often taken for granted. The relationships one has with their family and friends affects them on a day-to-day basis. If one cannot somehow obtain those relationships, then why not ease into it with plastic?
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