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We find our own answers in life. We gravitate towards the people and things that make us feel most like ourselves, and that make us happy. Those around us don’t always understand our choices but we can’t live our lives by the perspectives of others.
‘Lars and the Real Girl’ is one of the great underrated movies from Ryan Gosling’s eclectic career. Penned by Nancy Oliver (Six Feet Under), and directed by Craig Gillespie (Million Dollar Arm) it’s a film that gently highlights the breadth and diversity of the human experience.
For Lars life isn’t particularly kind or easy. He struggles to make friends and his experiences are often lonely and separate from those around him. Instead of giving in to the unhappiness in his life Lars makes his own decision about figuring out how to be happy. It’s a decision that seems borderline mad but it’s a decision that belongs to Lars.
Before ‘Drive’ impressed audiences, before Ryan Gosling became an unwitting feminist icon, and before the ‘Notebook’ ensured that he would forever be a heartthrob, he was acting in indie films.
He appeared alongside Michael Pitt and Sandra Bullock in ‘Murder By Numbers’, he played a drug addict teacher in ‘Half Nelson’, and a self-hating Jew in ‘The Believer.’ Gosling is an actor unafraid to take on difficult roles and ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ is perhaps his most experimental (bar ‘Only God Forgives’) to date, and one of the best underrated romantic comedy movies too.
His character, Lars, can barely stand the touch of another human being but he’s not completely out of touch with society. He works at an office, and he has his own place to live (although it’s a cabin in the back yard of his family home). Tragedy has touched his life with his mother dying several years ago, and his father passing more recently.
There is some human connection in Lars’ life however as his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister in law Karin (Emily Mortimer) live in the family home. Karin is pregnant and she is clearly a caring person who loves her family. She constantly asks Lars round for dinner but he always refuses, opting instead to spend his evenings in his lonely cabin separate from every one else.
As all great love stories go, Lars meets his future girlfriend by accident, in a sort of blind date moment. A co-worker at his office shows him a website where you can order sex dolls and customise them to your preferences. Lars orders a doll and she arrives a few weeks later in a big crate.
But it’s not the sordid tale that it seems. Lars is really looking for someone to share his life with and in his own sweet way this is the solution. He names the doll Bianca, he tells everyone that she is a paraplegic, and he pushes her around in a wheelchair.
Lars apparently knows Bianca very well. She can’t talk, or eat, but he finds ways to make sense of it all and she becomes his companion. It’s never suggested that Lars has sex with the doll and he treats her with respect and kindness. It’s a platonic relationship and one that his family accept, albeit with a degree of disbelief and a lot of shock.
What has always stood out in my mind is the fact that Lars’ family, and the wider community, accept his choice of companion. They don’t question him and it seems that they understand that Bianca is functioning in a helpful capacity for the lonely Lars. She draws out a gentler side, a side that hasn’t been seen for some time.
Lars is a man in pain and his life is one of emptiness and solitude. Bianca provides a chance of escape; her arrival shows that Lars understands that something has to change in his life. For a film about a sex doll, and a lonely man, ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ manages to tell a convincing story that never stumbles or struggles with its source material, or veers towards overt comedy either.
‘Lars and the Real Girl’ is one of Ryan Gosling’s most misunderstood and under appreciated movies. Its story is quiet, his acting considered, and it stands as a great example of a creative idea made even better through its execution.
Have you seen ‘Lars and the Real Girl’?
Let me know what you think with a comment below.