After Ryan Gosling’s starring role in 2004’s romantic teen drama “The Notebook”, it would have seemed perfectly predictable for him to follow in that route with a sling of similar date movies. Instead, he went the opposite route and wound up with an Oscar nomination two years later playing a crack addicted teacher in the indie film “Half Nelson.” His newest role in “Lars and the Real Girl” is another unconventional pick and more proof of his raw talent and unbelievable flexibility.
He plays the titular character, a very non-social/possibly mentally disturbed young man who lives in the garage of the house he and his brother inherited. His brother Gus (Paul Schneider) lives in the house with his pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer). Both of them are very worried about Lars due to his declining social life and his weird behavior. Lars is very apprehensive of their help, and is especially uneasy around Karin.
All of those problems end when Lars meets a girl on the internet. Unfortunately for his family and the community that girl is a “Real Girl” doll named Bianca (usually ordered by the lonely for sexual reasons). In Lars’ case he just wants companionship and can’t bring himself to find real human connection. When he shows up to his brother’s front door to introduce her they find themselves in the very awkward position of figuring out how to handle this problem. They employ the services of a psychiatrist (Patricia Clarkson) and she advises that they just go along with it until Lars fixes the problem himself.
Eventually the whole town cooperates and Bianca surprising becomes a huge part of everybody’s lives. One such person is one of Lars’ coworkers Margot (Kelli Garner), a girl who has feelings for Lars but doesn’t want to break up his relationship with Bianca or his mental stability.
The entire plot seems quite ridiculous but under the careful hands of director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Nancy Oliver, “Lars and the Real Girl” is a sweet, warm comedy that evokes strong emotional feelings from beginning to end. One of the film’s main characters is a lifeless, rubber doll but there is a genuine emotional connection to her as the film progresses because we can feel the real love that she is receiving.
Ryan Gosling is one of few in a new list of actors who could be the new generation of great actors. His performance in this is as flawless as his job in “Half Nelson” but it is quite different. Lars is a very conflicted person and Gosling portrays every little subtle imperfection with grace. With these two films he has really shown his range (much like Tom Hanks when he was a young actor) and he is most definitely an actor to watch for in years to come. He is blossoming into the next great thing.
The supporting cast is also worthy of recognition. Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer are completely believable as the confused yet supportive husband and wife. Patricia Clarkson performs wonderfully, although her story was a little confusing. In the past few years Kelli Garner has popped up in various films (“The Aviator”, “Thumbsucker”) playing a wide range of characters. She is usually gorgeous but is quite frumpy in this film which makes her character a bit more believable. She is also a young actress to keep an eye on.
There are very few flaws to this film. It drops a couple of minor subplots and one can’t help but wonder what happened to them. Fortunately the problems are so few that they are barely noticeable due to Gosling’s performance and the kind and warm nature of the film itself.
The music is also terrific, with a soundtrack comprised of original orchestrations by American composer David Torn (cousin of actor Rip Torn, who is not in the film). The music is simply sublime and adds a huge amount of emotional accessibility to the film. The film is also beautifully shot yet doesn’t lose and feeling of realism at all.
“Lars and the Real Girl” is an astonishing film. It brings out unexpected emotions from the very beginning right to end. It also happens to be absolutely hilarious. The talent in this film reaches perfect satisfaction. In other words, it doesn’t disappoint whatsoever. It’s one of many surprises of film in 2007, and luckily for us that surprise is absolutely pleasant.