Sunday, July 13, 2008

Movie Review - Lars and the Real Girl

At first glance, “Lars and the Real Girl” seems to be a humorous play on the awkwardness that comes with people making inanimate objects real. Like the little boy who tells you that you’re sitting on his invisible friend at the dinner table, and how you need to give “Tommy” some more Mac and Cheese because it’s his favorite.

But if you watch that movie with the intent of laughing out loud, or having a knee-slapping guffawing good time, go see “Zoolander” or “Dumb and Dumber.” This isn’t that kind of movie. I wouldn’t even put this on par with most intelligent comedies like “Arrested Development” or “The Office.” The humor comes in spurts, and from my point of view, the most humorous parts come when there is no dialogue. I’ll go through and give a blow-by-blow critique, then give additional thoughts that I had.

“Lars and the Real Girl” is about a socially inept man named Lars (played by Ryan Gossling), and the relationship he develops with a full-sized doll, who he names Bianca. Bianca comes from “the tropics, she’s Brazilian,” and both her parents died at her birth. She always likes to hug people, and lost her luggage on the way to America. She actually becomes a character in the movie, though inanimate.


Ryan Gossling, from the first scene, develops an emotional connection with the audience. I think in some sense you could say the creators specifically manipulated it that way. Oddly enough, I’m ok with it. They let you know up front that he’s innocent, that he has some social issues, and that he’s not like everyone else. But Gossling’s character was different in the sense that you don’t pity him. Sure, you can feel sorry for him, but it’s not a pity thing (which I think happens more often than not). As a matter of fact, I found myself pulling for him more and more. I wanted Bianca to be real, because I wanted Lars to be happy. Supporting cast is good, and I think that Gus and Karin (his brother and sister-in-law) could have been stronger from the beginning (they make up for this towards the middle of the movie), but I find that his office workers (Margo and Kurt?) were solid. I actually find the doctor to be well played, as the directors meant her to be the semi-narrator. I think that her caring and her interactions with Lars were great.



Nothing groundbreaking here. Decent music to help set the mood and to help you understand how to feel, but I think that it could have been stronger. I think it’s apparent that it takes place in rural community, and I think they could have brought that out a little bit more. I also think it would have been nice to have more prominent music setting the mood for the times when he was with Bianca and other times.



Again, nothing to write home about. I can’t see this movie being one that is quoted ad nauseam, or one that will have people going for a while. There is humor, don’t get me wrong (“Call 911.” “911?” “I don’t know, why do you always expect me to know what to do?”). But I think what’s going to endear to this movie, and save it, is going to be the quotes among the followers of this movie. Like “The Kings of Kong,” (a VASTLY underrated documentary on competitive classic video gaming), I think the subtle lines will come out. But this isn’t a quoteable movie in the funny sense. I think that many of the lines in this movie (for instance, Karin’s speech to Lars about selfishness, Gus’ speech to Karin about living in the garage and becoming what he does, and the obvious yet intentional emotional speech by the reverend) will be quotable in a sentimental and touching sense, not a knee-slapping sense.



While the premise of a man with a doll for a girlfriend seems like the plot to another lame comedy movie (see “Weekend at Bernies”) and while the cover portrays that humorous comedy, this movie becomes one that warms your heart, and forces you to have a smile almost the entire time. I’ll admit, I was expecting hilarity throughout the movie. I was a little disappointed, but that’s because the packaging on the DVD and the portrayal of the movie lent itself to humor. But you watch the journey of a man come to grips with himself through a doll, and try to overcome himself. You begin to root for him and Bianca. By about ½ way through the movie I could see myself figuring out what was going to happen, yet instead of taking away from the film (which usually does for me), I found it added to it. I could not only prepare myself, but observe what other things were going on. But the other thing that was poignant to me was the story of the community. A small town, a small community, and a place where everybody knows everyone’s business is one I’m unfamiliar with. But the community joining together to help Lars really was beautiful, and a great statement on the potential we as a community can be for one. “It takes a village to raise a child,” or, you could say, it takes a village to help a man. I found it to be a movie I reflected on more and more after it was over. It’s a chick flick, boxed up in a drama, wrapped up in an emotional story with the strangest looking bow, but the meaning and intentions are pure and good



I think that the rewatchability is the strongest factor of this movie. Once you understand what is going on, and once you understand how to view the movie, you appreciate the subtleties, theme, and beauty of it. You realize how much of a daring step it is to have a main character (along the same on-screen potential as Gossling) that is inanimate. I liked this movie, and really can’t wait to introduce it to others who will be able to appreciate the package the creators have left us with.



“Lars and the Real Girl” is great, if you know what you’re getting into. Appreciate the human interactions and the job that the director, Craig Gillespie, focuses on the themes rather than the story. Go in to see a good story. Go in to grow attached to characters, and to feel what all of them feel (Lars, Gus, Karin, Margo, everybody). Doing this will help you to value the story. While it’s not particularly moving, nor is it a breakthrough in cinema, it takes a different path in moviemaking, tries something different, and succeeds.

IMDB Rating – 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes – 81%

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