My in­flat­able friend

Lars and the Real Girl is a funny and hu­mane com­edy-drama, writes Michael Dwyer

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL Di­rected by Craig Gillespie. Star­ring Ryan Gosling, Emily Mor­timer, Paul Sch­nei­der, Kelli Gar­ner, Pa­tri­cia Clark­son 12A cert, Cineworld/IFI/Screen, Dublin, 106 min IT CAME as no sur­prise that Lars and the Real Girl was voted the most pop­u­lar nar­ra­tive fea­ture among the 100-plus movies on show at last month’s Dublin fes­ti­val, when it was placed third be­hind two Ir­ish doc­u­men­taries for the au­di­ence award. A month ear­lier, Nancy Oliver de­servedly re­ceived an Os­car nom­i­na­tion in the best orig­i­nal screen­play cat­e­gory for the movie.

Oliver, for­merly a writer on the se­duc­tively strange Six Feet Un­der se­ries, makes an aus­pi­cious cin­ema de­but with her truly orig­i­nal screen­play for Lars and the Real Girl, which is strange in dif­fer­ent ways and proves se­duc­tive in its own right.

Set in a small US mid­west town dur­ing win­ter, it fea­tures gifted Cana­dian ac­tor Ryan Gosling (from Half Nelson) as the painfully in­tro­verted Lars Lindstrom, who is 27 and lives in a con­verted garage next door to his older brother Gus (Paul Sch­nei­der) and Gus’s preg­nant wife Karin (Emily Mor­timer).

Lars, whose mother died while giv­ing birth to him, firmly re­sists any per­sonal con­tact at the of­fice where he works, and in par­tic­u­lar, the ami­ably amorous over­tures of one col­league, Margo (Kelli Gar­ner). He is so shy that he even re­fuses din­ner in­vi­ta­tions from his brother and sis­ter-in-law.

Gus and Karin are as­ton­ished when Lars an­nounces that he fi­nally has a girl­friend, Bianca, de­scrib­ing her as a half-Brazil­ian, half-Dan­ish mis­sion­ary who is in a wheel­chair. When Lars brings her to din­ner, it tran­spires that she is a life-size, anatom­i­cally cor­rect, sil­i­cone doll he or­dered over the in­ter­net. While the doll’s wide-open mouth sig­nals sex­ual pur­poses, Lars is so chaste that he asks Gus and Karin to give her a room in their house.

Not sur­pris­ingly, Bianca be­comes the talk of the town when Lars brings her to church. The fam­ily doc­tor (the re­doubtable Pa­tri­cia Clark­son), how­ever, taps into the dis­turbed young man’s delu­sions and re­alises that the doll is there for a rea­son and may be the key to un­lock­ing them. She de­vises an un­ex­pect­edly prac­ti­cal approach to Lars and Bianca, which in­volves in­te­grat­ing Bianca among the lo­cal peo­ple. Bianca even gets a part-time job as a store man­nequin.

The movie’s Aus­tralian di­rec­tor, Craig Gillespie, skil­fully or­ches­trates a suc­ces­sion of hi­lar­i­ously odd­ball scenes that had me quak­ing with laugh­ter. But si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and with re­mark­able sub­tlety, the film grad­u­ally takes on a more se­ri­ous tone and turns deeply af­fect­ing.

This is a film that takes sev­eral high risks: in its treat­ment of lone­li­ness and men­tal ill­ness in a con­text that is mostly hu­mor­ous; in its shift­ing mood changes on the jour­ney to­wards a res­o­lu­tion that is never over­played or sen­ti­men­tal; and in its un­fash­ion­ably be­nign and op­ti­mistic view of hu­man­ity and com­mu­nity in the mod­ern world. Yet it suc­ceeds in es­tab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing the will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief in the viewer as ef­fec­tively as in the fic­ti­tious towns­peo­ple it de­picts.

That Lars and the Real Girl works on so many lev­els is at­trib­ut­able to its fu­sion of creative tal­ents, from Oliver’s imag­i­na­tive, com­pas­sion­ate screen­play to how di­rec­tor Gillespie and the film’s per­fectly cho­sen cast (in which Gosling is ter­rific, again) re­spond to that ma­te­rial.

film Bed­time story: Lars (Ryan Gosling) and Bianca settle down for the night

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.