As the trailer and online clips demonstrate, “Lars And The Real Girl” is full of quirky characters and humor, but taken as a whole it is a concise, poignant, and generous film, one that prompts us to ask ourselves the important questions its characters face. Don’t let its simple style, bizarre twist, and small-town vibe fool you into thinking its merely a sweet little distraction: it is a relatively inexpensive therapy session, for those willing to look beyond its surface.
Lars is a reclusive man who lives in a garage. He can’t stand to be touched and doesn’t say much of anything to anyone, despite everyone’s best efforts to draw him out of his shell. Some people worry about him while others barely manage to tolerate his behavior, but he unwittingly throws them for a loop when he introduces his new (and only) girlfriend, Bianca. She’s a life-size, anatomically-detailed doll that he happens to believe is real, but that others claim is a delusion. Obviously, irony has the upper hand as the people in Lars’s life find themselves grooming, feeding, defending, and ultimately, loving the delusion. Bianca is more than just a fake pretty face with a wildly imagined life story. She is a mirror reflecting both Lars’s desire for a person with whom he can share a risk-free intimate connection and the abundance of love around him already.
The cast was impressively moving, skillfully creating a world in which we all feel at home whether or not we want to. Ryan Gosling’s embodiment of Lars has created a need for an entirely new level of award, and Patricia Clarkson is fantastically understated as the small-town doctor who attempts to help others instead of helping herself; everyone else follows their lead, making us nod sympathetically and admire them in spite of their alleged shortcomings.
Probably meant as a moment of comic relief in a critical and tense point of the plot, the preacher asks what Jesus would do about Lars’ delusion named “Bianca,” but I couldn’t help wondering what I would do? And that is the real magnificence of this film: its ability to pull us into these people’s lives and their unusual situation in such an engaging way that although we may intially think we’d do it differently, something rings true for us in their judgments and decisions, allowing us to look in the mirror for ourselves.
“Lars and The Real Girl” reminded me that the power of creativity often lies in its polarity: we may think that we feel best when we’re lauging, but it can feel just as good to cry, and even though judging someone may feel wrong, it can pave the way to self-acceptance. Personally, and obviously I am not an authority on this, but I think Jesus would love this movie too.