Director – Craig Gillespie
Writer – Nancy Oliver
Starring – Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner, Patricia Clarkson, Nancy Beatty
I can’t quite get my head around Ryan Gosling ‘indie flick’ Lars and the Real Girl. It seems to be the type of quirky film I usually like, and yet everything feels either misjudged or that it’s all trying a bit too hard. I could have been something great, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s not.
Lars is an awkwardly shy young man living in a small town staying in the garage of his brother’s house. One day he finally finds a girl and brings her home to meet his brother and his sister-in-law. The only problem is she’s not real – she’s a sex doll that Lars has ordered from the internet. His sister-in-law feels sorry for him and wants to help him, his brother thinks he’s crazy but eventually they and the whole town goes along with his delusion, welcoming him and his new ‘friend’ in support.
Lars had the potential to be something I really could enjoy; it’s quirky (or at least attempts to be), it has a great lead performance, a band of supporting actors I enjoying seeing from time to time and just a general chance of being something interesting and even fun to watch. Unfortunately it’s virtually none of the above, instead being an awkward, uncomfortable, hopelessly unfunny disappointment.
The one big thing that the film has going for it, and this practically stops me from hating the it, is that it’s wholly original. I think I can pretty much safely say that there has never been a film before this about a lonely man who orders a sex doll from the internet and treats it as a real person. It’s an original idea with a lot of potential for some great laughs and endearing outcomes to the inevitable breakdowns along the way. But I felt at every turn that the film was just trying too hard to be something we haven’t seen before, the screenplay being the biggest culprit of this. It takes the unique idea and stretches it out to a length that outstayed its welcome long before the end credits. I am not sure where else they could have went with the premise but I didn’t like the direction they did.
Lars is supposed to be a character we at first find no relation to, maybe even thinking he’s a complete loser and nothing more, but then are supposed to warm to him and even feel sorry for him. And although towards the end there were a few flutters here and there of the latter emotions, for the most part I just found his character unlikeable, unrelatable and just plain creepy. That’s not knocking the performance by Gosling, as he is great in the role and he really shows just how good of an actor he is here. But it’s the character I had the problem with, not the actor.
Another semi-saving grace of the film was the supporting cast. Emily Mortimer plays his sister-in-law and I found her character one hundred times more likeable and relatable then the title character and her performance is one I could take on board. Patricia Clarkson makes an appearance as a psychologist and she brings a great sense of maturity to this otherwise almost infantile film. But my favourite supporting performance came from Paul Schneider (recently seen in The Assassination of Jesse James) as Lars’ sceptical brother. The reaction of him when he finds out about Lars’ new ‘girlfriend’ was most likely the funniest part of the movie for me. He is an actor I am relatively unfamiliar with but I will certainly keep an eye out for him in the future.
The film is labelled as a comedy/drama so I realize that the laugh-factor isn’t going to be as high as traditional, full-on comedies. But at every point in turn, when everyone else in the cinema was laughing like hyenas, I kept think, “Why are you all laughing? What’s funny here?” Judging by the fact that I was in the minority by not laughing hysterically it must just be personal taste on my part as everyone else seemed to find it hilarious. This leaves me to the conclusion that it’s probably me and not the film.
For me this film at least isn’t completely without its merits; it’s completely original and the performances are really enjoyable. Unfortunately I found little else to like in Lars and the Real Girl, a film swamped by a sense of misjudgement, failed comedic moments and an air of trying way too hard for its own good. It’s a real shame as it really seemed like a real treat.