Lars and the Real Girl will be a hard review to write in the mode of “Film Reviews for Ladies,” because a FRFL is usually a bit tongue-in-cheek and tends toward the superficial. While you might think that a film about a looserish guy who falls in love with a sex doll would have all the makings for “tongue in cheek” (and, ewww, elsewhere!) and “superficial,” this movie manages to be very earnest and probing (ew! no pun intended! sorry! eww, sorry!).
Now that I have hopefully gotten all the grody sex puns out of my system, maybe I can go on with talking about the movie. Let’s talk stars, shall we? The eternally-beloved-by-my-female-students Ryan Gosling stars as Lars, but he is certainly no heartthrob in this movie with his greasy hair, unironic moustache, and quiet, slump-shouldered desperation. The only positive thing about him we can see in the beginning is that he has great taste in Scandinavian sweaters. I do love good Danish knitwear.
Bianca, pictured above with Lars, is the Real Girl in question. If you don’t know about Real Girls Dolls, go check out their website. Go on, I’ll wait.
So now you see what Lars has gotten into in the film. I won’t waste too much time or reveal too much here, but the whole play on the word “real” in the title is at the center of his relationship with the doll Bianca and with others around him. One of said others is Margo, played by Kelli Garner, pictured below. She’s the real real girl, and confronted with Bianca’s synthetically perfect body, face, and hair — a “Real Girl” who never needs to eat, never smells bad, never farts, and has a personality constructed by other people’s vision of ideal femininity — Margo wavers between Lars’s quiet desperation and a naïve cheerfulness of her own. Also, she is totally cute, a good bowler, and has those silly plastic barrettes everyone wore in elementary school.
Another real real girl in the move is Karin, played ably by the adorable Emily Mortimer, whom I liked in Match Point and loved in Dear Frankie. Her fake American accent is not even annoying!
Patricia Clarkson co-stars as Dagmar (alert! awesome name!), the general practitioner who begins giving Lars therapy sessions, mostly unbeknownst to him. She is one of my favorite characters — she gently and cleverly manipulates Lars into talking about the things that matter in his obsession with Bianca, and they have some of the film’s most touching scenes together.
Over all, it’s quite a lovely movie, and — in spite of the Real Girl — manages to be something of a triumph for real real girls everywhere.