It’s a doll house – a DOLL HOUSE!
Shy, reclusive Lars one day buys a Real Doll named Bianca, lavishes all the emotions of a real relationship on her – love, jealousy, impatience, happiness – and doesn’t have sex with her. In other words, he’s having a real relationship.
Written by Nancy Oliver (SIX FEET UNDER), directed by Craig Gillespie (MR WOODCOCK), LARS AND THE REAL GIRL is an intriguing thought experiment, about Lars (Ryan Gosling), a disturbed young man who brings a Real Doll (yes, the sex objects made to resemble life size hot women) into his small town community as his girlfriend. The local psychologist Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) advises the town to go along with the delusion because it is fulfilling something that Lars needs to “cure” him of whatever is ailing him. One helluva sympathetic town…
Lars lives in the guest house of his brother Gus (Paul Schneider, looking like Zachary Quinto) and wife Karin (Emily Mortimer). They’re both concerned about Lars, but while Karin maturely tries to accept Bianca, Gus’s flabbergasted reactions about his brother’s psychosis are priceless, and they sell the film, because though the town of Boundless Sympathy USA accepts the delusion readily, we needed someone on our side to say, “WTF?!”
Ryan Gosling goes out on a limb to portray a timid, introverted, discomfited lost soul in Lars, combing down his hair like a nerd stereotype and willfully being soft-spoken and slightly eerie.
On the pretense of examining Bianca every week, Dagmar slowly teases out Lars’s deep fears and loneliness, and why Bianca is in his life. At their first meeting, we hear the message, “She’s here for a reason.” And later, Lars would tell Gus, “She likes to help people.” Of course, she’s inadvertently helping him become a part of the community that he shunned for so long, allowing him to appear at parties with her as his date, attend church and mingle with the people afterwards, and be accepted unto their bosom as an integral cog instead of an outsider.
But the plan backfires. The townspeople are so accommodating and take Bianca’s sovereignty so far that they make a life for her separate from Lars: before we know it, Bianca is volunteering at the library, she’s doing benefits, she’s being picked up from home to attend events without Lars, and she eventually gets elected to the school board! Lars fumes, like any man would, who is not seeing enough of his hot Danish woman – and Karin overhears him having a nasty “couple-fight” with Bianca from another room. It’s dangerously hilarious.
I actually thought the movie might go in another direction: Lars lets Bianca sleep in Gus’s main house, while he still sleeps in the guest house, so I thought Gus would one day get busted with Bianca and that would open a whole new can of beans with the wife, Lars and the psychologist… I guess I’m the only one with the dirty mind ’round here…
Kelli Garner is Margo, who works with Lars, and openly crushes on him, disappointed when Bianca makes the scene, but sticking by Lars as a “friend.” We all know why she hangs around: these women with only One Thing on their minds! Margo takes Lars bowling one night while Bianca is out with the townswomen; she puts the hard word on him; he declines, “I don’t wanna cheat on Bianca.” Margo denies thinking in that direction – but now she knows what we men feel like after a date that goes nowhere – WASTE OF TIME! Thinking you are cultivating and then being turned down flat. The first thing that goes through our heads is, “Where’s the nearest whorehouse?!”
Bianca eventually gets sick and dies! In Lars’s mind, of course. It reminds us of that SOUTH PARK episode where Cartman kills off his toys when he doesn’t need them psychologically any more. Dagmar tells Gus, “I’m not making this happen – Lars is. He found her unconscious, he’s the one who says she’s dying!”
They must have some dandy health insurance to have an ambulance pick up Bianca and put her in a hospital bed! If we look at it from the point of view of the hospital staff being in on the gag to help their mental patient Lars, then we can accept it. But our suspension of disbelief dies about the same time Bianca does.
Even though it is funny – because through the pain, Lars’s delusion is being cured – there is a terrifying underlying sickness in Lars’s decision to kill off Bianca. Let’s go from Real Doll to real world: Margo never lets up in her low-self-esteem crush on Lars, even when he’s going through his delusion. Right at the end, her asks her, “Wanna take a walk?” She says yes breathlessly. Meant to leave the viewer with hope for Lars. But let’s examine: what does Margo expect in her future with this guy who openly brought a Real Doll into the community as his girlfriend? That means there’s something substantially wrong with the wiring upstairs. Just because he makes his delusional girlfriend die doesn’t mean he is cured of that particular obsession; it doesn’t mean he’s “cured” of being a wacko per se. The fact that he had to make her die in order to pursue a “normal” relationship is not normal to begin with – and says something ultra creepy about him: that he is so fanatical about relationships and fidelity that he needs his partner to die before embarking on another relationship. He actually asked Bianca to marry him – and she said no. Then she started “dying.” What happens when he bores of the real life Margo, or asks her to marry him too soon and she declines? Does he tie her up in a basement and pretend she’s dying of starvation – while letting her die of starvation?
In the end, Lars got it all wrong: he pathologically created that Real Doll’s persona for a relationship where he could go through every facet of psychological trauma and not have sex. But that’s what Real Girls are for.