Lars and the Real Girl - 2007
Director(s): Craig Gillespie
Writer(s): Nancy Oliver
Cinematography by: Adam Kimmel
Editor(s): Tatiana S. Riegel
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner, Nicky Guadagni, Patricia Clarkson, Karen Robinson and Maxwell McCabe-Lokos
The cult classic film title tends to cast a wide net, encompassing movies from all genres, and quality. If you scroll through my Cult Thursday section, more than likely you will find at least one film you are passionate about and will defend. You may love the over the top nature like a "They Live" or a "Wet Hot American Summer." Maybe its groundbreaking nature is what draws you in like "The Matrix" or "Scream." Or more than likely it is a film ahead of its time and found its audience years later like "Brazil." However, my favorite type of films that fall in that vast net of cult status are the weird ones that I can watch on repeat and always have the same feeling of happiness and joy wash over me, and the perfect example of that is Lars and the Real Girl.
The story follows Lars (Gosling). He is in his late twenties, and lives and extremely secluded life due to his social anxieties. Lars converted the garage of his inherited parents’ home into an apartment, and his older brother, Gus (Schneider) uses the house with his pregnant wife, Karin (Mortimer). Lars tends to avoid all interactions with them despite the love and attention Karin wants to give him almost daily. One day, to their surprise, Lars knocks on the door of their home and tells them he is bringing over his girlfriend, who turns out to be a sex doll he ordered online. However, in Lars' mind, she is a real woman, leading to his family and friends to accept their relationship as real and treat the doll as one of their own.
The reason why I love this film so much, outside of the wonderfully engaging performances from Gosling and Mortimer, is the heart and warmth Nancy Oliver injected into this absurd premise. This film could've easily been mean-spirited towards Lars and making fun of his mental state, and the relationship he created with a doll. But how earnestly and lovingly the town and his family embraced works as a source of laughter as the absurdity of the situation is inherently funny. Them saying to Gosling that she wants to volunteer at the hospital and that she wants to go to the charity ball, leaving him annoyed that she doesn't spend time with him always makes me laugh. But that response and that embrace are so genuine and full of love that it makes for the perfect example on how acceptance can help the people around you.
The reasoning for his mental break, as repressed fears of abandonment that bubble up due to the pregnancy of his sister-in-law and how his doctor uses the excuse of medical treatments for the doll as a way to get Lars to talk are elements that add depth to the story and provide insight to the inner workings of this introvert. The reasoning for his mental break, as repressed fears of abandonment that bubble up due to the pregnancy of his sister-in-law and how his doctor uses the excuse of medical treatments for the doll as a way to get Lars to talk are elements that add depth to the story and provide insight to the inner workings of this introvert. Weird how a film about a sex doll can be such a source for hope and love. Movies are magical.
Ryan Gosling sells his performance through his body language and subtle quirks that add to his characters such as the heavy blinking and mannerism that make him stand out from the rest. I completely believed he was in love with the doll, which is a testament to him. I also fell in love with Emily Mortimer as she will not give up on Lars, and always wants to include him in her life to the point that she is willing to put the doll in a bath and scrub her down. He outburst at Lars calling him out on his anger, telling him how much everyone loves him is one of the best scenes of the entire film.
Lars and the Real Girl is a sweet, charming film about acceptance and love - how one cannot judge from the outside and push away what one deems outside the norm. With the right balance of drama and comedy the runtime flies by leaving you wanting to revisit this sweet and cozy Wisconsin town, even if it is a bit cold outside. If you skipped over this film due to the weird premise, give it a shot, you will be amazed at how much you will love it.
Lars and the Real Girl is Why I Love Movies.
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