Friday, February 14, 2014

Critic's Pick for Valentine's Day Weekend: Lars and the Real Girl

Lars and Bianca: Image courtesy of MGM Studios
Back in 2007, an unassuming little indie movie came out about a sweet but painfully shy man who, to the utter surprise of family and friends, decides to take his romantic fate into his own hands by buying an atomically correct, life-size doll - not for sex, but for companionship.

I will be the first to admit that many dolls scare me. Something about their lifeless eyes and wan, sometimes forced cheerful faces, have always been the stuff of nightmares for me. So the concept of a man falling in love with a large doll sounded creepy, and looked even creepier in the trailers.

Perhaps I was not alone in my feelings on this, since the movie flew significantly under the radar of the general public, despite having heartthrob Ryan Gosling in the starring role and being nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing and Original Screenplay as well as winning several other awards. But at the urging of a good friend of mine, Chris, (who could win a look-alike Ryan Gosling contest), I took a deep breath, decided to get over my phobias, and Netflixed this baby.

What an odd little treasure it turned out to be. When Lars introduces "Bianca," a girl he explains he met on the Internet who is of Brazilian and Danish descent to his brother Gus and his sister-in-law Karin during a rather awkward dinner, they, of course, worry about Lars' sanity. Gosling does an incredible performance treating Bianca as a real person, a sort of gentle puppy love affection towards her, despite the fact that she comes dressed as a hooker when she arrives fresh out of her box.

The emotions in this movie are real and not overdone - the audience is not manipulated into tears or made to pity Lars. Despite all the stresses and concerns of the imminent arrival of their first child, Karin and Gus gamely set Bianca up in the guest room, give her some regular, less provocative clothing, and the whole town suddenly gets wrapped up in the project of Bianca, seeing that she is helping Lars get out of the painfully, quiet little world that he has been living in. As the plot gently unfolds like a spring blossom emerging from the snows of winter, we, the audience, realize that Bianca has become a therapy tool for Lars to begin loving what is most important - himself.

Toby sez: Refreshing as a spring thaw, quirky and original. Sure to melt the snowiest of hearts.  



  1. Have you seen "Her," the Joaquin Phoenix movie? I'd love to read an addendum to this that compares and contrasts the two.

  2. I too was a little unsure of seeing this movie...the trailers looked really *really* weird...but I have to agree, it does wind up being a sweet story. It also just gets you right in the feels, when the whole town tags along. Nowadays it feels people in the community can be isolated, to see a group get together to help one of their own is nice, even if it's just a movie.

    I also liked the arc and how the character grew. Well done review Liz! Give tobes some love for me!

  3. Thanks guys for the comments! Will, thank you for reminding me to check out "Her." That one had kind of fallen off my radar, but having watched the trailer again online, it has rejuvenated my interest! And you are right - it would work well as a bookend to this review.

    Paul, Toby sends purrs.

    Thanks again for reading and for the thoughtful feedback!