“You will believe,” as they say, after viewing this lovely dramatic fable about Lars (Ryan Gosling) and his girlfriend, who just happens to be an inflatable sex doll from Brazil named Bianca. Still grieving over the recent death of his father, barely functioning at his office job and desperate to avoid the solicitous attentions of his pregnant sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer), Lars seems determined to remove himself entirely from human society. But encouraged by a coworker’s Internet porn habit, he decides to order Bianca and, when she is delivered, immediately sets out to introduce “her” to his relatives, including his highly skeptical brother (Paul Schneider), his coworkers, and his fellow townspeople. He even takes her to church.
At first, the idea that virtually everyone accepts Lars’ relationship with Bianca, treats her as if she is real and gradually comes to see her as a flesh-and-blood person seems far fetched and ridiculous. But the movie slowly weaves a subtle, magic spell that overcomes any cynical response to the story, largely because of Nancy Oliver’s delicate, perceptive script, Craig Gillespie’s thoughtful direction and the all-around wonderful performances by the cast, which never condescends to the material.
Gosling, who’s often been the best thing in provocative but flawed movies (The Believer, Half Nelson) finally has a movie that does full justice to his talents; his portrayal of Lars, who harbors reservoirs of anger and deep pain beneath his diffident, self-effacing exterior, is a marvel, but so is the acting of Mortimer and Schneider as Lars’s loving family who, along with Bianca, of course, help him work through his grief. Lars and the Real Girl is a timely reminder that love stories don’t have to be crass or contrived to succeed, even if one of the star-crossed lovers is entirely artificial. —
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Schneider and Kelli Garner
Director: Craig Gillespie
Screenplay: Nancy Oliver
Producers: Sarah Aubrey, John Cameron and Sidney Kimmel
Rating: PG-13 for some sex-related content
Running time: 106 min.
Release date: October 12, 2007 ltd.