Lars and the Real Girl 4 stars
Starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Kelli Garner and Paul Schneider. Directed by Craig Gillespie. Released by MGM Distribution Co. Rated PG-13; 1:46.
“Lars and the Real Girl,” a comedy about a young man suffering from the delusion that his high-end sex doll is a real woman, has the unmitigated gall to approach its subject with maturity and sensitivity. At least, you say, be a horror film or gross-out comedy. But no, this is a dry indie comedy. And even more perplexing, it’s a good film: heartwarming, thoughtful and very funny.
Lars (sensitive babe magnet Ryan Gosling), damaged by a number of earlier traumas, loathes human contact. Living in a garage and watching his brother (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer) gleefully prepare for parenthood, Lars isolates himself even further, despite the efforts of his small, sympathetic community to pull him out of his shell.
When he orders a sex doll online and presents it to the town as his devoutly religious Internet girlfriend, they go along, hoping it will give him the chance to work through his issues. Through the efforts of his family and friends, “Monique” is not only accepted, but becomes downright popular (and not in a gross way).
Gosling at times can pour it on thick, but the melodrama is dictated by a script that occasionally veers away from comedy and toward soap opera (screenwriter Nancy Oliver wrote for “Six Feet Under”). The rest of the cast — especially Schneider and Patricia Clarkson as the local doctor — can overshadow Gosling at times, but hell, it’s a pretty damn good cast.
“Lars” is obviously not a realistic film (although, thankfully, it is a deadpan one). The protagonist’s disorder is dubious. And the reaction of the town is hilarious, although equally unlikely. It’s a film about fantasies and surrogates and how we sometimes need make-believe like dolls and daydreams (and movies) to prepare us for the rest of life. Given that, you really have put in a little extra effort to suspend your disbelief to enjoy “Lars,” but you’ll find it worthwhile.