"quietly absorbing and continually surprising, rare enough qualities to make this quiet little story a huge film"
A truly touching and original story. This is one of the most remarkably original films that I've seen, providing a refreshing comment that we can learn and expand our horizons from each other if we approach everyone's foibles with a degree of kindness. It is laugh-out-loud funny, but it is also thought-provoking and moving.
Ryan Gosling has rocketed to the top of the list of my favorite contemporary actors. He's given two of the best performances in the last two years: here in "Lars" and last year in "Half Nelson." The success of "Lars and the Real Girl" depends almost entirely on Gosling's ability to sell this character to the audience, and he does so flawlessly. Lars is a sweet teddy bear of a man who also happens to be intensely lonely. He orders a life-size and anatomically correct sex doll and proceeds to make a companion of her, taking her to parties, to church, to family dinners. A psychiatrist (a marvelous, as usual, Patricia Clarkson) tells the family that the best thing they can do for Lars is to encourage his delusion until he works through whatever is causing it. As a result Lars' girlfriend "Bianca", helps this community and this family come together in unexpected ways. Paul Schneider as Gus is the perfect brother who would rather bury painful issues than deal with them.
The fascination of the film is its own and its characters' willing suspension of disbelief, which become a metaphor not only for fiction, for acting, and for films, but for human sympathy and its power to induce love for people and from people we don't understand. This is not just a study of one damaged individual on the mend, but of a whole little society. Delicacy in the writing and restraint by the actors makes this all work. This hasn't got the verbal wit and audience-pleasing nudge-nudges of such mainstream-hip current comedies as Superbad and Juno, but instead it's got far more originality and subtlety.
I am hugely disappointed that this film was only nominated for one Oscar. The film is quietly absorbing and continually surprising, and those are rare enough qualities to make this quiet little story a huge film. This is a perfect example that film-making is not entirely an exercise in CGI and dumbing down of the audience. Clearly, "Lars and the Real Girl" isn't for all tastes. But if you're a bit open-minded and willing to accept the idea of this film, you will be richly rewarded.