Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lars And The Real Girl

I was kind of underwhelmed by Lars and the Real Girl. I’d heard from several sources that it was really good, and it didn’t suck…it just wasn’t everything I had hoped it would be. I don't know why. I don't know what I expected, so I can't really put a finger on where it was lacking for me.

The movie centers around a quiet but kind man named Lars. He lives in the garage behind the house where he grew up, and his sister-in-law and brother, who live in the house, worry that something is wrong with him because he prefers to spend most of his time alone. They invite him to meals and he finds reasons not to come, and he refuses to talk to anyone, really, more than he has to. There is a girl from church who has an obvious crush on him, but when he’s presented with the opportunity to give her a flower and strike up a conversation, he throws the flower aside and runs away.

Lars’ shyness begins to ebb away when he announces that he’s got a visitor from abroad: Bianca. Due to her religious beliefs, Lars asks his brother and sister-in-law if she can stay with them. She’s very shy and quiet, doesn’t speak much English, and is in a wheelchair. She’s also a doll.

Lars introduces Bianca to the people in his life as his girlfriend, and clearly believes that she is alive. On the recommendation of the doctor in town, Lars’ family and friends…and eventually the whole town…play along with his delusion. They believe that Bianca’s presence in Lars’ life has meaning, and it is clear that she’s bringing him out of his shell in ways that he never could have done on his own. The town plays along so well, in fact, that Bianca is eventually elected to the School Board and is honored at a Hospital volunteer banquet. As Lars watches Bianca “live” her own life, he learns to live his. The support that he has clearly bolsters him as he works through his own issues, which brought Bianca into all of their lives in the first place.

Ryan Gosling, who plays Lars, does a GREAT job in the movie. He’s been charismatic and almost “crush-worthy” in other roles, but he’s 100% socially inept in this one…but still somehow makes himself loveable. The supporting cast does their job, too, and overall, I think the movie shows a side of mental illness that many people have never seen. Instead of being ridiculed and treated like he’s crazy, Lars is loved and helped through his crisis. It’s probably something that would never happen too often in real life…but it did give me a good feeling to know that maybe somewhere there are people who would choose to do the kind thing in an extreme situation.

I know it sounds kind of like I’m praising the movie…but I didn’t love it. I’m not slamming it either, I didn’t dislike the movie at all…but once again, I think I expected more from it due to hearing so many good things about it from others. I would say that it’s a unique movie that’s worth seeing…but it’s probably not one that I’d need to see again or own.