That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Lars and the Real Girl

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007 9:04 pm—Film

Lars and the Real Girl (USA 2007, Comedy/Drama) Writer: Nancy Oliver; Director: Craig Gillespie

It’s been quite a few movies since I’ve been touched the way Lars and the Real Girl touched me.

The film is about Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling), a delusional 27-year-old man with severe social phobia. He functions well enough to hold down a job, but can’t bear to be touched and spends his spare time looking out at the world through the window of the garage he calls home. So, his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law Karin (the fabulous Emily Mortimer) are delighted when Lars wants to introduce them to his new girlfriend Bianca. That is, until they meet her and see that she’s a RealGirl—a life-size, anatomically correct sex doll. From Brazil.

At first, Gus and Karin are in shock. But, on the advice of Lars’ psychiatrist Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), they choose to accept Bianca and welcome her into their lives. The beautiful part is that the rest of the small town they live in does the same. And so, Bianca takes on a life of her own, outside Lars’ imagination. She volunteers at the church and spends time with the local girls at the hair salon.

Lars and the Real Girl is a humble movie. Its cinematography is bland at best. The film was shot in King Township, Ontario and appears to take place during the bleak, colourless days between November and March. Even the sets and costumes are dreary; the actors are dressed down in drab clothing and wear little makeup.

In the end, it’s left to the film’s characters to bring colour to the picture, which they do in wonderful, uplifting ways. The entire community responds with incredible heart and compassion to Bianca, from Lars’ meathead co-worker Kurt (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos), to Margo (Kelli Garner), the sweet choirgirl whose crush on Lars proves to be a truly selfless love. Nancy Oliver’s script offers each character nuanced, realistic dialogue and creates a sweet portrait of simple, small-town life. Lars’ issues are beautifully revealed at a gentle pace. There is no exposition; instead, the backstory comes out in its own time.

Still, as good as the script is, the movie only works because of Gosling’s performance. He is quickly establishing himself among the ranks of such greats as De Niro and Penn. Gosling moves with ease from deadly (Murder by Numbers) to charming (The Notebook) to mentally ill. He is an absolute chameleon. In Lars and the Real Girl, he gives an astonishing performance. There’s a pivotal moment when Lars is wrestling with the decision to give up Bianca and face the “real” world. When he touches her doll face and kisses her doll cheek, he makes her as real for the viewer as for him. Absurd as the scene is, Gosling makes the moment heart wrenching rather than laughable. When he buries his face in her hair and sobs, you feel his pain, can practically feel your muscles clench as he clings to her. You never hold on to something so tightly as when you know you have to let go.

I can see why some people might be put off by Lars and the Real Girl’s premise. (I’m looking at you, SO.) But I recommend seeing the film anyway. Gosling gets you past the gimmick. And you’ll spend most of the movie laughing. Nothing wrong with that.

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