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Nov 14, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: Lars and the Real GIrl

Or, When Good Actors Make Questionable Choices.

I don’t want to give the impression that Lars is a bad film, but I have to wonder if, 15 years from now, will Ryan Gosling see a still from this film, and wonder to himself “WTF was I doing starring opposite a blow-up doll?!?”

Oh, that’s right – “Bianca” isn’t a blow-up doll; she’s the 21st century version, a 100-lb. hunk of plastic made to look as real as possible - and she does. That said, this tale of a damaged-almost-beyond-repair young man plays out like one of the best Hallmark made-for-TV movies ever (which I think is both a compliment and an insult).

The Swedishly (?) named Lars is a simple guy living in an unspecified northern Midwestern town. He lives in the converted garage next to the house occupied by his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and Gus’s wife Karin (Emily Mortimer). Karin, as we learn, is always trying (and failing) to pull Lars out of his shell, and his house, and get him to join them for breakfast or dinner, at one point stalking out the driveway and almost literally dragging him into the house. Lars is what you might call painfully shy.

Somehow, Lars manages to function somewhat normally as a human adult, working in your typical cubicle-hell office, surrounded by, amongst others, a pixie named Margo (Kelli Garner; think a younger Amy Adams) and a DJ Qualls-like cubicle mate. Said cubicle mate, as it turns out, is into some kinky stuff, and one day tries to show Lars a sex-doll website he’s stumbled upon (at work no less – wink wink). Lars, awkward of course, shows little interest and scurries off to get coffee.

Six weeks later, a doll is delivered to Lars’ “house.” Soon enough, he’s voluntarily headed for dinner with his brother and sister-in-law. His date? You guessed it – Bianca.

From there, the movie alternately shifts gears between being a quirky, community-driven indie about a town coming together to help one of its own, and a character study, digging deeper into why and how Lars got to the point of delusion. Though it has its charms, it really fails at both, never being serious enough for the latter or light enough for the former. Instead, we’re in a middle ground, stuck wondering just how small this small town is, and why NOT ONE PERSON is either rude enough or ignorant enough of the situation to tell Lars that he’s off his rocker. But he’s such a nice boy, and he wouldn’t hurt a fly, and he’s so immersed in his delusion that he wouldn’t hear it even if that happened, we’re told. Whatever.

There I go again, though – sounding negative, and the film’s really not all that bad. Schneider plays Lars’ brother as the beacon of reality for the audience, questioning the decision made by Lars’ de facto shrink (Patricia Clarkson) to play along with the delusion. He knows that Lars (and the rest of the family) will be mocked soundly, and the congregation at their church isn’t likely to look fondly on a sex doll showing up for mass. The movie also joins the ranks of films with a bowling alley scene, and if you’ve been here for awhile, you know that I’m a sucker for those. That said, Gosling, Mortimer and Clarkson are all slumming here – actors all too good for the material they’re working with. But at least it’s not Mannequin, right?

Fletch's Film Rating:


3 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Lars and the Real GIrl"

Adam said...

Your blog is the best... around

Adam said...

Yea, I was pretty spoiled - but it was probably '89 or something (so yeah I'd say I was five).

Just whatever you do, please promise me you will stay away from the PS3. It's the biggest piece of crap (and biggest ripoff) ever. There aren't even any good games for it that you can't play elsewhere.

The Wii is $250, which is the cheapest of the new systems... if you can find one.

Thanks for commenting, I hope to see more of you on the site - your movie reviews are awesome.

Matt said...

I almost went to see Lars and the Real Girl. I think I will sometime in the future. But don't hate on Mannequin too much. That movie gave me my first glimpse into the glitz and glamor of retail.