[Five Deadly Everythings]

Lars and the Real Girl

Posted in break it down, movies by Jef on May 7, 2008

Ryan Gosling’s performance as socially-dysfunctional oddbal Lars makes Lars and the Real Girl a fascinating film to watch, but it’s ultimately a flawed film whose story doesn’t support the depth Gosling gives to his character.

We first see Lars staring out into a drab, snowy exterior from behind a window pane. A girl (Emily Mortimer as Karin, whom we later discover is Lars’s sister-in-law) sneaks up on him and reticently invites him to breakfast. He makes excuses and declines.

This plays out again later with Karin physically tackling Lars on the driveway and imploring him to eat with her and her husband. The film hasn’t given much info about their relationship at this point; we know Lars is a recluse because of his awkward, reluctant interactions with co-workers, but why is Karin so obsessed with him coming over for dinner? We don’t know that they are related in any way, so is she in love with him? And if so, why? — he’s a certifiable weirdo.

Karin’s agressive kindness towards Lars and his adamant refusal to interact with her is at the crux of the film’s failure. When Lars later orders a sex-toy Real Doll, falls in love with it, and presents her to the world as his new girlfriend Bianca, it lowers him from withdrawn and unusual to downright creepy. He’s a loner of the most alienating kind.

The film makes us view Lars from the vantage point of his social network. We never see his first interactions with the doll, only the reactions of those around him when they first find out about his new relationship. This is fine, but the film is dependant upon the audience’s sympathy towards Lars and the temporary suspension of disbelief required for us to view Bianca as a viable character/person. Lars views her as so, and later the whole town does as well, but we are given no reason to follow along, other than the fact Gosling is a terrific actor who can cry with anguish while kissing a silicone fuck toy. If we are to feel for this relationship, why don’t we ever get to see its intimate moments?

Why does the town rally behind him with such enthusiasm, tagging along with his delusion and going out of their way to make Bianca a part of the community? Who is Lars to these people? To the audience so far, he’s unfriendly, awkward to the point of abrasive, in love with a fake person and rejecting of real ones. All we know is that he had a hard time with his father, a depressed widower, and that this affected him greatly. But who was he before this and why should we give two craps?

The town’s love for Lars is unfounded and the film relies on the fictional construction of small town citizens as simple, salt-of-the-earth folks, hand-holding members of a giant family. They take Bianca to work with them, party with her, attend her funeral, all for Lars, whose most endearing quality (other than he’s played by Gosling) is that he falls in love with Bianca — we at least see the positive effect SHE has on people. It’s too bad the film does a better job of fleshing out the Real Doll than it does its main character.

One Response

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  1. Noops said, on June 15, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I was running yesterday and I had a thought that made me want to come back to this post.

    Tell me if this makes sense, it was clearly yesterday so I’m not sure if it will work now as I try and stitch vague strains of thought from my memory: how does this film deal with mental health? Are we supposed to see Lars’ behaviour as absurd, because he’s not necessarily outwardly “crazy” (except for when Bianca’s in the picture) just reclusive. I kind of was thinking that this movie deconstructs, in a way, people’s idea of mental health as a fixed thing. That it’s flux, and anyone can be plagued by mental health issues, and those issues can fade just as quickly as they were brought on.

    Anyway, I think I had more things to say about this. But it’s an interesting commentary if I could bother to carry it further. lol.

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