Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

January 4, 2009 § Leave a comment

Canadian actor Ryan Gosling is note-perfect as a reclusive, small town guy that announces to close friends and eventually the whole town that he has a girlfriend — a girlfriend that turns out to be a life-size doll found online.

In a film like this, I waited for is the heavy-handed “aren’t people nasty and closed-minded” moment, where a group of people tear the doll from him, and despite his urgent pleading, refuse to return it. In The Elephant Man (1982) it worked well to have the central misfit character pursued by a mob calling him an animal, because it drove home the point that the animal was the mob, not him.  Since then, this kind of dramatic scene has become the most obvious way to point out that people should be more compassionate.

But nothing like that happens. This is a remarkably well-paced, gentle and funny film that doesn’t need to resort to anything overly dramatic, even as the characters (and Lars, our misfit hero) do grow and change. The film never mocks the characters, or introduces a moustache-twirling villain of some kind who conspires to get rid of the doll. Instead, it’s a portrayal of compassion and growth, and in its own quiet way, a pretty remarkable little film.  Screenwriter Nancy Oliver (who wrote for the HBO series Six Feet Under, and now True Blood) has done an admirable job here.

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