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Lars and the Real Girl

Only the Lonely

Living in the garage next to his brother Gus' (Paul Schneider) house, Lars (Ryan Gosling) is a socially awkward 27-year old who much rather sit by himself in his puffy coat wringing an old baby blanket his deceased mother (who passed away while giving him birth) had knitted for him than interact with real, live human beings. As you see him at work and church and with his family, you quickly realize that he is badly in need of a Paxil or maybe even a hug. His pregnant sister-in-law, who has the doe-eyed demeanor of an eager puppy, Karin (Emily Mortimer), knows something is wrong and despite her fumbling attempts at getting him to open up, still can't get him to crack a smile or, as one of his co-workers would say, "chillax".

All this changes when Lars' new girlfriend Bianca suddenly shows up. Lars has never seemed happier, he's practically blushing and giggling like a little schoolgirl. Gus and Karin are pleased and delighted to learn of his new romance. That is until they meet Bianca, who's a life-like yet completely artificial blow-up doll. Unfortunately, as they discover, Lars is in the middle of a powerful delusion in which Bianca is 100% real woman. She's a wheelchair-bound and orphaned missionary from Brazil who also happens to be a registered nurse. Needless to say, Karin and Gus are speechless.

The scene in which the two first meet Bianca is one of the funniest scenes in the history of cinema. All hyperbole aside, it is truly hilarious. And, fortunately, the first of many laughs that Lars and the Real Girl has to offer. But humor isn't all there is to the movie. Lars and the Real Girl is essentially a sweet drama about a young man trying to work through his loneliness. When Karin suggests that Bianca go for a "check-up" to her doctor, Dr. Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), a family practitioner trained in psychotherapy, who then diagnoses her with a serious sickness that requires weekly sessions, Lars begins the process of healing.

In order to help him, the entire town plays along with the delusion. Gus and Karin tell all their friends, and even go to the church for help. At first there is resistance but when the pastor poses the question "What would Jesus do?" everyone ends up going along with the idea. Eventually, they even start building their own relationships with Bianca. More hilarity ensues.

Lars and the Real Girl could have derived easy laughs at the expense of its main character but it strays away from such cheap shots. Instead it takes a much more difficult and nuanced road and comes off just as funny. But it's a witty, insightful humor rather than silly, slapstick antics. This can be accredited to director Craig Gillespie (who also surprisingly directed the insipid Mr. Woodcock) and writer Nancy Oliver's (best known for her work on "Six Feet Under") skills as well as the superb cast.

Gosling takes someone who could have easily been a serial killer in the making and turns him into a vulnerable character that you just can't help but root for. The character who garnered the most laughs (besides Bianca) was Gus due to Paul Schneider's pitch perfect comedic timing. The overall scene-stealer, however, was Kelli Garner as Lars' overly friendly and lovelorn colleague Margo.

Lars and the Real Girl is easily one of the best, and most original, movies of the year.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars


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