Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Movie Log: Lars and the Real Girl

The "short and funny" regime continues, though I'm not dogmatic about it -- Lars and the Real Girl counts both ways even though it's about an hour and three-quarters and not a comedy. (It is funny, now and again, and ends well, so it's a comedy in the Shakespearean sense, at least.)

Ryan Gosling is Lars, a very introverted young man living in a small community somewhere cold and snowy -- I don't think the movie ever says, exactly, but I had a Minnesota-ish feeling. (Though it could be Manitoba or Ontario; it seemed to be North America, and the accents pegged it somewhere in that general area.) He does something unspecified in an office, and lives in a few rooms attached to the garage of his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer). Karin and Gus live in the old family homestead, having moved back into it a few years back when Gus and Lars's father (whom Lars was living with and caring for) died.

In fact, Lars is probably clinically something-or-other -- I'm not a doctor, so I won't be specific -- since he says, later in the movie, that it physically hurts him when other people touch him. Conversation and emotional closeness don't seem to give him immediate pain, but he doesn't like them much, either. So he keeps to himself almost all the time, despite the efforts of Karin and a co-worker, Margo (Kelli Garner), to draw him out.

But then one day Lars learns about those life-size ultra-realistic sex dolls, and -- we don't know his through processes -- decides to order one. She arrives , in a box like a coffin, and he declares to Gus and Karin that she's his girlfriend, Bianca. And there's some resistance -- from Gus, and then other men in the town -- but, before long, the whole town is treating Bianca as if she's real.

Under the pretense of treating Bianca, Lars starts seeing the local doctor, Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), and she draws him out bit by bit. And then the bulk of the movie is the engrossing, fascinating process in which first Bianca and then Lars become part of the real life of this town -- how they both are drawn into these small-town social circles. Bianca is elected to the school board, and gets various volunteer jobs -- all with everyone else in town pushing her around in a wheelchair, because Lars says she's sick.

And, eventually, Lars finds ways to cope with himself, and can finally open up to real people. Lars and the Real Girl has the premise of a wacky comedy, but it's about as far from that as can be imagined -- it's a quiet, touching story of socialization and the deep, lasting strengths of people who really know and care about each other. Everyone I know who's seen it has loved it [1], and I did, too.

Edit: [1] Except Joshua. (see below)

1 comment:

The Brillig Blogger said...

not everyone you know. not everyone.

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