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‘Lars and the Real Girl’ shows real heart and emotion – Film Review by Becky Kinder (10/11/2007)

November 2, 2012

Although Lars seems to simply be an anti-social or shy young man, what unfolds before the audience, and eventually the other characters in “Lars and the Real Girl,” is the loneliness and emotional disarray he has been living with since the day he was born – and what needs to happen for him to work through it.

Lars (Ryan Gosling) shuts himself away from everybody in his small Midwestern community as often and completely as possible, including his brother, Gus (Paul Schneider), and his sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer).

In spite of his inability to fully connect with others on a social or emotional level, Lars does show he cares for those around him in the only ways he can.

Everybody in Lars’ small town puts forth the effort to coax him out of his shell. His sister-in-law constantly invites Lars over for meals with his brother at her home, which happens to be the house adjacent to the converted garage Lars is living in. Co-workers and fellow church members attempt to involve him in conversations and invite him on dates and bring him to events.

Eventually Lars announces to his brother and sister-in-law that he has met a girl over the Internet and she is staying with him, but their desire for a non-sexual relationship requires that she stay in the main house instead of with him.

The audience and his family meet Lars’ girlfriend, Bianca, and see that she is an anatomically correct doll, the type usually ordered for sex, not a relationship.

From that moment on, the other characters live life through the view of the reality Lars has created instead of trying to force him back into theirs. His small family and the community band together, with the help and suggestion Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), to help Lars live with – and hopefully overcome – his delusion.

You cannot help but laugh and be horrified at the same time, but the film eventually shifts to an undeniable view of the uncommon humanity everybody shows to Lars. It’s even easy to envy what Lars has when you see his family, doctor and the community bending over backwards to treat him and Bianca as normal community members, showing unconditional acceptance and love.

In a seamless performance by Gosling, Lars fits into an “everyman” sort of commonality while also showing the social and inner emotional strain and differences he faces everyday. The slightness of each change Gosling shows is almost like watching a flower sprouting from a seed – there is no sudden change unless you pay attention. Gosling plays each scene with such a natural ease it is easy to believe he really is the man you see on screen.

Mortimer and Schneider are a great support, not only to Gosling, but to each other’s characters as well. Their performances offer a look at the give and take relationships need to survive through life and also remind us that sometimes opposites, even just different views, can attract and even carry one another.

Clarkson offers up such a superb performance, it is almost blasphemous to call it acting. Her strong yet kind and gentle lead is just what the rest of the community needs to follow and help Lars live the best life possible.

Through Bianca’s visit, the community in “Lars and the Real Girl” sees what it is really made of and helps each individual take a look inside as well, bringing everybody together instead of ripping them apart.

The audience, too, can grow and learn from this film – and laugh a lot while doing so.

“Lars and the Real Girl” will be released in theaters Friday.

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