'I was hoping winter was over'
Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is a lonely, emotionally stunted man who lives in the garage of his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and sister in law Karin's (Emily Mortimer) house. Lars orders an anatomically correct sex doll which he perceives as a real woman named Bianca. In an effort to help Lars with his delusion, Karin and, reluctantly, Gus act as if she is alive as well. Soon, the whole town is in on the act, and Lars finds himself coming out of his shell.
I loved it. I thought that it hit upon a near-perfect balance of comedy and darkness and much of this is down to Ryan Gosling as Lars who, despite the bumfluff 'tache, was such a sweet and loveable character but Gosling also managed to convey his loneliness and isolation without overselling it. His performance was also one of the main reasons that the central premise worked; you just knew that Lars would not be the sort of creep that would buy a sex doll for the usual reasons, a fact that was reinforced by his assertion that Bianca was deeply religious, and this served to heighten the comedy of the people of the town start finding out about the unorthodox relationship in their midst.
Eli Roth-alike Paul Schneider was also superb as Lars' older brother Gus and his almost unwavering skepticism got the most laughs in the cinema I saw it in. More importantly, though, he and Gosling managed to create a real sense that they were two people who loved each other but who still maintained an emotional distance. Gus' comtemplation about his role in Lars' development was affecting but not overwrought, showing a restraint and unwillingness to patronise the audience that ran throughout the whole film. Emily Mortimer was also very good and only let her American accent slip once in the film.
My only real criticism would be that the metaphor of ice and winter was overplayed and at times quite heavy-handed. Considering the subtlety of the rest of the film, I found this aspect rather jarring and, though it didn't ruin the film even the slightest jot for me, it was distracting and led to a couple of the film's very rare lulls. The film also falters somewhat in its final third as it points towards the inevitable end but meanders a bit too much in reaching that conclusion.
A few reviews seem to have expected a darker, edgier movie and have called it misogynistic but I think they couldn't be more wrong. Lars and The Real Girl is a sweet, touching and oddly melancholic film that is more human than its plastic co-star would imply. It's, and it pains me to say this, genuinely life-affirming stuff and a wonderful, if odd, fairy tale.
All of this is incidental, though, since the most important thing is that it features 'Genius of Love' by Tom Tom Club, and is therefore glorious.