Friday, February 27, 2009
Lars and his Real Girl. Feature film. (2007, 106 mins) IMDB
just finished watching this movie. I'm trying to collect my thoughts and they are all over the place. Too many.
If you haven't watched the film, stop reading this entry and watch it right now. Don't wait. Even if it's two in the morning and you have to smash the window of a store to steal a copy of the DVD, do it. At your trial, your defence will be simple: watch this film.
I don't often watch previews for films but I remember watching one for this film and it stuck. That doesn't happen often. I clearly remembered the premise of the movie but I thought the lead actor was the goof-ball Arquette and the film was a silly romp. It was neither. That tells you how misleading previews can be.
Ryan Gosling plays Lars. Yes. Another Canadian, among many, who has a leading role in a Hollywood movie, although this film surely must be classified as an independent film.
We first see him on a cold, quiet day staring out the window of a simple building. The look of the film is rural, small town, of a simpler time. I thought perhaps it was set in the 70s based on the look and feel but that's not possible when later a character manipulates a colour-screen computer to browse a web site. The set design, locations, characters, costumes and weather all reminded me of growing up in Ontario, and in fact that's where the film was shot.
Lars stares out the window and watches as a young woman, Emily Mortimer, runs from her house to his door. He backs away from the window as not to be noticed but she knows he's there. He opens the door to her. She wants him to come to breakfast. It's Sunday. Have some food. Get out and enjoy life. Reluctantly he agrees but first he must go to church.
At church we see how painfully shy and reticent he is, socially awkward, but we don't know why. We learn he has no girlfriend, people like him but he doesn't want anything to do with them. Keep it simple and short. It's also where we meet Margo. She clearly likes him and wants him to like her, but he can't even say hello or enquire about how she's doing.
When he returns home after church, instead of going into the house as promised to have breakfast, he runs into the garage away to be alone. It's where he lives even though he owns half the house with his brother. We learn later his parents are dead.
What I've written so far covers the first few minutes of the film. From the start of the film I was intrigued about what would happen since I knew the bulk of the film would deal with a new girlfriend--a real size, anatomically correct doll. The doll being a woman for sexual pleasure. When would she appear and how and what would be the consequences? Nothing that followed was predictable and I was intrigued even more. So many predictable angles about a sex doll never happen in this film and it was refreshing.
Suffice it to say Lars has issues and once that's established, his new friend enters the pictures. A lifeless doll whom he calls Bianca. She has dark, long hair. Lush ruby lips. Melons for breasts. To him she's Bianca. Part Brazilian. A missionary. A church going person. All of it the creation of Lars and all of it seeming real.
His brother and sister-in-law are dumbfounded. They don't know what to do except to see a physician played by the adorable Patricia Clarkson.
What follows has to be viewed and enjoyed.
There were moments where I laughed, moments when I cried. Moments when I did both and wasn't sure what was the right response.
The doctor suggest they play along with his delusion and they do. (An attempt to do otherwise by his brother doesn't work.) What's surprising is the whole town plays along and the result is far reaching than you'd expect. Bianca takes on her own life as she volunteers at the hospital, goes to church, attends parties. It's quite remarkable what happens in this film.
Act III arrives when Lars discovers or decides that Bianca is terminally ill. Once you understand what happens to get to that point, this switch and turning point is completely natural. At some point there would have to be a change and this was it.
We never see Lars taken away to the looney bin. Never see him ridiculed or heckled or harassed and all of that is refreshing. Those types of responses represent cheap drama, melodrama, and we are spared it.
In part, what builds our interest is questions on why is he like this and can he be cured? Can he be healed? That is his arc and since this is a film, the answer is yes. And since it's primarily a comedy, the answer is definitively yes, even if life doesn't work that way.
In the third act, he buries Bianca in a full funeral that is entirely believable. A minister speaks of how Bianca touched everyone in front of a packed church. Nothing the minister says from his pulpit isn't anything but the truth.
Our hero finally grows closer to Margo and the film ends with the notion they will get married and live happily even after.
It's a feel-good movie with laughs but also thought provoking and hopeful. I'd like to live in that movie with those people.
I almost groaned early in the film when he said he had to go to church. Another bible thumper, or so I thought, but it's exactly the opposite. During the sermon we hear about the main force of Christianity: to love one another. It's something I find lacking from the bible-thumpers who spout off on TV and the internet. In this film the Church plays a small, but positive role in the film.
The whole notion of reality and delusion is one subject of this film. As it relates to an individual and the people around him and even the church.
I'm glad I watched it, in fact I loved it, and hope others do.
As you watch the film, pay attention to the weather. At the start of the film there is chilly late fall days with no snow on the ground. As we move forward, winter has arrived. Snow is everywhere, but late in the film, spring arrives, it's still early, but the snow is almost gone, water flows and it's no coincidence.
Posted 2009/02/27 at 19h14ET in Movie Commentary.