Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl

The challenge for the viewer in a film like this is that, as you’re watching the film, you’re thinking, “Um……naw!”

Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a painfully shy man who lives alone (but right next to his brother and sister-in-law) in a small town that seems to be continually in winter. One day Lars orders a life-size doll. Normally such dolls are ordered for sexual purposes and are hidden away, but in Lars’ case, he’s ordered a girlfriend and prominently displays her, acting as if she’s the real deal. The couple and, indeed, the whole town goes along with the ruse on the advice of his doctor.

That’s pretty much it. You see? You’re saying to yourself – or maybe even out loud – “Um….naw!”

Except that the movie is more than the synopsis. A very cleverly written screenplay, deft direction alternating between drama and comedy, and fine acting set this movie apart from just another indie-with-a-weird-idea. It is weird, that’s for sure. But the secret to this film is how the town reacts to Lars’ new girlfriend, and how true that reaction feels.

You’d also think that there isn’t enough here for a full-length movie, but there is. The time – spent in watching the townspeople getting to “know” the girlfriend – gives us a chance to meet all of these people, shake their hands, and sit down with them for a cup of coffee. And we also get to know Lars just a little bit better, a good thing since he was always “hands off” before the girlfriend arrived.

See? We’re thinking of her as a real person, too.

Thumb’s up. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay, 2007.


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