Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl Review: A Man, His Doll, and Responsibility

Lars: I was talking to Bianca, and she was saying that in her culture they have these rites of passages and rituals and ceremonies, and, just all kinds of things that, when you do them, go through them, let you know that you're an adult? Doesn't that sound great?

Gus: It does.

Lars: How'd you know?

Gus: How'd I know what?

Lars: That you were a man


Gus: Okay, you know I can only give you my opinion.

Lars: That's what we want.

Gus: Well, it's not like you're one thing or the other, okay? There's still a kid inside but you grow up when you decide to do right, okay, and not what's right for you, what's right for everybody, even when it hurts.

Lars: Okay, like what?

Gus: Like, you know, like, you don't jerk people around, you know, and you don't cheat on your woman, and you take care of your family, you know, and you admit when you're wrong, or you try to, anyways. That's all I can think of, you know -- it sounds like it's easy and for some reason it's not.
You wouldn't think that a movie about a man and a life-size, anatomically correct sex doll would be described as charming, heart-warming, and delightful but Lars and the Real Girl pulls it off.

Lars suffers from crippling shyness and an extreme desire to be alone, to the extent that even enduring dinner with his brother and sister-in-law is a severe trial to all concerned. Six weeks after his cubicle-mate shows him a life-size sex doll, Lars' new girlfriend "Bianca" shows up and is treated as real, to the natural alarm of his family. The town doctor advises that sometimes such severely dysfunctional behavior is a way to work through problems and tells them that they should also treat Bianca as real. She then prescribes a weekly series of "treatments" for Bianca's "low blood pressure" which give her the needed excuse to talk with Lars and try to help him work out his problems. For those worried about the fact that Bianca's original manufacture was for unnatural purposes, Lars' faith is very important to him, and therefore to Bianca, who is given a spare bedroom at his brother's house.

Naturally, what emerges is bordering on the edge of fantasy, just as does The Castle, another small film that takes a fantastic premise and uses it to show us a bigger picture. In the case of The Castle it is the strength of family love. In the case of Lars and the Real Girl, it is exemplified in the exchange excerpted above between Lars and his brother. Gus must come to terms with how his past choices have affected Lars and take responsibility. Lars uses Bianca not only as a shield from the world which terrifies him but also as a way to gain experience and strength in order to become an adult, ready to take on responsibility. This transition is shown in small fits and starts that give the actors a chance to show their talents as many of them are not spelled out and must be inferred from glances or other small

Additionally, we are shown how various townspeople care enough for Lars to take on the fiction of Bianca's reality in order to help him. This gives them a chance to indulge in an opportunity to play as Bianca eventually takes on a life of her own in a way that is both humorous and charming.

This is an understated movie and the reflections on these themes are not deep but they are heart-felt. For those willing to let go and also play along this movie has big rewards.

Rated PG-13 for some sex-related content, which is fairly minimal and due to the fact that Bianca is a sex doll which leads to far less joking around than you would expect and in much better taste.

Highly recommended.

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