#10 – “LARS AND THE REAL GIRL” (2007)
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Back in 2006 Channel 5 screened the documentary “Guys and Dolls” in which we met Everard Cunion, a 50 year old man who, unable to form a proper relationship with the opposite sex, had instead purchased four RealDolls and was currently living in a surreal long-term relationship with them.
Yet, whilst it was initially tempting to simply snigger and dismiss Everard as a sad pervert the sight of him celebrating Christmas alone but for his silicone sirens alongside his frank admittance that “Clearly, they’re not as good as the real thing in many ways” painted an altogether tragic picture of a lonely man desperate to not only love but to feel loved himself but whose inability to properly connect with women had led to an existence that many people would be quick to laugh and sneer at.
And so we come to Craig Gillespie’s delightful film “Lars and the Real Girl”, in which Ryan Gosling stars as Lars Lindstrom, a socially inept man who lives in the converted garage behind the house in which his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) lives with his pregnant wife Karen (Emily Mortimer). Forever declining Karen’s invites to dinner alongside the obvious attractions of fellow co-worker Magda (Kelli Garner) Lars is a gentle, repressed soul unable to find a true connection in the modern world who is ultimately drawn to the wonders of www.realdoll.com, an entirely genuine website dedicated solely for the purpose of purchasing highly realistic, anatomically correct silicone sex dolls.
Despite a synopsis seemingly torn from the pages of the Farrelly Brothers handbook what makes “Lars and the Real Girl” so wonderfully refreshing is its decision to avoid cheap, easy laughs, scatological slapstick and infantile gross out comedy in favour of a gently witty yet altogether poignant tale of a very lonely man’s attempt to find true love. For it appears that sex is almost the last thing on Lars’ mind and his purchase of Bianca simply a way in which to alleviate his all-encompassing solitude and, in time, address far deeper mental issues.
With award winning performances in the likes of “Half Nelson” and “Blue Valentine” Ryan Gosling is quickly developing into one of the most accomplished actors of this generation and his performance as Lars only goes to further such a belief. Maintaining a firm grip on his underlying illness yet never losing sight of the humanity within Gosling’s performance is simply captivating, painting Lars as wonderfully kind-hearted, gentle soul yet one with a heartbreaking delusional disorder.
The subject of mental illness is so often grossly overplayed in the movies so it’s refreshing so see such a subtly layered performance that never descends into cinematic cliché and over dramatisation. And whilst it requires a certain suspension of disbelief to accept that an entire town would willingly embrace Bianca and treat her as a real girl in order to aid Lars’ recovery such scenes never lessen the film’s impact and, if anything, add a delicate sense of whimsical fantasy to proceedings. In fact I’ll wager that not even the coldest of hearts will remain untouched come the film’s beautifully poignant conclusion.
“Bianca’s in town for a reason” states the family doctor at one point and it seems this reason is ultimately to act as a catharsis for Lars’ many insecurities. But though Lars may well have moved on come the film’s climax the impact Bianca has had on his and everyone else’s lives is abundantly clear. So when she is presented with a bouquet of fake flowers by a fellow churchgoer it’s perhaps apt when Lars tells her “They’re not real, so they won’t die like real flowers do”. For in the end it seems that despite being entirely unreal herself Bianca, like the flowers themselves, will forever live on in the hearts and minds of the townsfolk. And you know what? She may very well have found a place in ours too.
“Sometimes I get so lonely I forget what day it is, and how to spell my name”
Track #5 – “GENIUS OF LOVE”
Written by Adrian Belew, Christopher Frantz, Steven JC Stanley and Tina Weymouth
(Performed by Tom Tom Club)