“Everything about Lars and the Real Girl worked together to create a very touching film.”
Do you know how some movies just kind of end and leave you thinking “Wow, that one is going to stick with me”? Well I had that when I first watched Lars and the Real Girl a few years ago. And though the finer points of the film kind of escaped me, I always regarded it as a great movie; so today I’m taking the time to discuss why I think it is so great. Lars and the Real Girl is a film that follows Lars, an antisocial introvert who lives in the garage of his old family home while his brother and sister-in-law try desperately to connect with him. Well things change dramatically for Lars when he finally meets a woman, and this news excites everyone who knows him; until they realize that she is not real, but instead a life-like sex doll ordered from the internet.
So the first thing I want to discuss about Lars and the Real Girl is the range of emotions that this film takes you through. Now the range isn’t very big (really only two emotions are felt), but the distance between these emotions are pretty vast. Can you guess what the emotions are? Of course you can’t, you aren’t a future-seer. The emotions I’m discussing would be sadness, as well as happiness. I think why this film is sad is pretty straight forward. In Lars and the Real Girl you have a man who is so intentionally secluded from society and so far removed from sanity that he genuinely believes that a sex doll is real, and in love with him. This is tragedy in its finest form. There is also sadness because I kind of relate to the main character. Is that too pathetic to say? I mean, I’m not falling in love with sex dolls or anything, but I feel the same sense of loneliness (at least to a certain degree) that was exhibited in the film. But Lars and the Real Girl isn’t all doom and gloom because there is a pretty healthy serving of happiness as well. This happiness manifests itself as the community that Lars is a part of coming together to help Lars. Everyone knows that he is sick, so instead of treating him like a pariah and whispering rude things while he’s walking down the street, they decide that the best course of action is to indulge in this fantasy, but in a way that will hopefully help Lars himself. Now of course Lars, much like anyone else in that mental state, doesn’t see the help he’s getting, but from an outsider perspective it’s really sweet to see how much everyone cares for him. I also found the character of Lars really interesting as well. I already mentioned how he is kind of relatable, but just the way he is written and portrayed really paints this beautifully tragic image that you can’t help but be enamoured with. We are introduced to Lars in a way that is natural, and the film doesn’t beat you over the head with any one particular message. You know Lars is sick, you get hints as to what the cause is (like the very poignant line about fake flowers), but the film tries to not point a finger and scream at the audience. This is because the film isn’t really about that; it’s more a story of the power of friendship and community.
And what makes a lot of this movie work is a lot of the smaller details that can kind of go unnoticed; like, for instance, the world in Lars and the Real Girl. The world that we see in Lars and the Real Girl is kind of a like a Napoleon Dynamite-esque quirky town. We meet a cast of characters that make us laugh because of how weird they are, and at the heart of that you have Lars. Now I feel that even though Lars and the Real Girl presents a world that is very strange and quirky, it has a lot of real elements as well. As soon as you get into the swing of things with Lars and the Real Girl you forget that you thought this town was weird at all. Everything fits so naturally together, and it really brings this movie to a whole other level. I also found the direction in Lars and the Real Girl to be pretty magnificent, but it goes unnoticed for most of the time. Looking back I found the colours and the general framing of the film to really fit the tone that it was going for. Everything was very bleak and empty, but every once in a while you’d get these brilliant flashes of colour that stood out and made you smile. These manifest themselves in different ways (like the pink room, Lars’ blue blanket, etc.) but it was a good mimicry of what the story was doing to you as well. But what really made me fall in love with the direction in Lars and the Real Girl was one scene that took place in a doctor’s office. I’m not going to spoil the scene itself, but the way that the camera captured everything really elevated the emotions that I was feeling. Not only was feeling sad, but I also got to feel the same emotions of the character because the camera movements emulated those emotions. It’s direction like that that can take a movie from good to great; and though it wasn’t a huge factor in Lars and the Real Girl it still helped. I also liked the score of the film for some of the same reasons. Lars and the Real Girl features music that is very quirky and upbeat (not unlike the world itself), but also had a few moments of real emotion as well. Everything about Lars and the Real Girl worked together to create a very touching film.
But one thing that really made this movie were the performances. Now I do believe that literally every single person in Lars and the Real Girl did an amazing job portraying their respective characters, all coming together to create this quirky, heartfelt town, but to me there were two clear standouts from the group. First of all we have Ryan Gosling who played Lars in the film. Not only is this my favourite Ryan Gosling performance, but I think it might be his best. Everything I said about Lars earlier is because of Gosling’s performance. The emotion, the gravity, the reality that he brings to this character are all amazing. Throughout the film you really feel for Lars, you feel his struggle and you also, much like everyone else in the town, want him to get better. All of this is because Lars is such a realistic character because of the amazing performance that Gosling gives. And I don’t think the consensus still exists today, but if you think Gosling is just a pretty face give Lars and the Real Girl a watch. But the second standout for me, almost on-par with Gosling’s performance if I’m being honest, is Paul Schneider who plays Lars’ brother Gus. Now Gus is a really interesting character, and I would argue that he is almost more tragic than Lars himself. With Gus we have a man who has gone through most of the same things as Lars throughout childhood. He now has a wife who is pregnant, and is trying (with a little reluctance) to get his brother out of his shell. You can see that he really cares for Lars, but the two weren’t all that close growing up. When Gus sees Lars’ new “girlfriend” is when things start to get really interesting. What we see than from Paul Schneider’s performance is a man who is trying desperately to snap his one living relative out of this illness that seemingly came out of nowhere. His life has been flipped upside down, and he is trying desperately to grab onto anything he can. Sure these scenarios allow for a few moments of levity, but in large they are just really fucking sad. Seeing this repressed anger, having to fight the urge to run up to Lars, hit him in the face, and screaming at him to “snap out of it” is really brilliant. You can tell that Gus is very angry, not at his brother but at the situation, but that he also really still cares about his brother. He feels responsible for his brother’s current state (as he mentions throughout the film) and that shows in this brilliant performance. This performance, much like all of the others, felt very real. Gus’ reaction to this situation is one that is very human, and one that we can all relate to in one way or another.
Overall Lars and the Real Girl is a movie that connects with me on a personal level. The character of Lars is one that is so outlandish, but at the same tome so realistic you can’t help but see some of yourself in him. The world presented in Lars and the Real Girl is one that works wonderfully on all levels, and this can be said for the film itself as well. Great performances, a great story, great direction; great movie.
I give Lars and the Real Girl an A