out of Five
Running time: 106
Enjoyably quirky indie drama with strong performances, impressive direction and a sweet-natured script that gets the tone exactly right.
What's it all about?
Directed by Craig Gillespie, Lars and the Real Girl stars Ryan Gosling as 27-year-old Lars Lindstrom, a painfully shy young man who has never had a girlfriend, partly because he has never recovered from the death of his parents, particularly his mother, who died in childbirth. When Lars announces that he's met a woman named Bianca on the internet, his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his sister-in-law Karin (Emily
Mortimer) are delighted, until Bianca arrives and turns out to be a lifelike sex doll.
Naturally, Gus thinks Lars has gone nuts, but when the family doctor (Patricia Clarkson) advises them to go along with Lars' delusion, Gus and Karin reluctantly welcome Bianca into the family. Eventually, news of Bianca's arrival spreads throughout their small Midwestern town and the townsfolk react in increasingly surprising ways.
The performances are excellent throughout: Gosling got the most attention when the film came out in the States (he picked up a Golden Globe nomination) but the supporting performances are equally good, particularly Paul Schneider and Patricia Clarkson. Indeed, the film is so well scripted and edited that even Bianca appears to give a strong performance – props are certainly due to whoever was in charge of, well, props.
The script (by Six Feet Under writer Nancy Oliver) is superb, managing to blend small-town Capra-esque (read: feel-good) black comedy with some astute observations about mental illness and a subtle message about tolerance. It's also surprisingly moving.
It's fair to say that the film probably won't appeal to everyone, but if you buy into its deliberately quirky premise, then there's a lot to enjoy here.
In short, Lars and the Real Girl is an enjoyable, well made indie drama that manages to be both laugh-out-loud funny and emotionally engaging at the same time. Recommended.
Lars And The Real Girl (12A)