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LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, 2007
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LARS AND THE REAL GIRL MOVIE POSTER
LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, 2007
Movie Reviews

Directed by Craig Gillespie
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, R.D. Reid, Kelli Garner
Review by Martyn Warren



SYNOPSIS:

A delusional young guy strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet.

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REVIEW:

First released at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, Lars and the Real Girl (dir. Craig Gillespie) managed to receive a fair amount of nominations, including Academy Award’s Best Writing Original Screenplay and Golden Globes’ Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. With a story of a man’s exploration of life of the people around him through a manikin doll, this turns into a loving and innocent film.

The story focuses around a shy and complex young man named Lars (Ryan Gosling) who goes through his daily routine of work and going to church. His sister-in-law Karen (Emily Mortimer) tries to invite him to have a meal with her and his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and as usual has to force him to socialise with them, as do the other people in his life within his small town. This is the setting of the story before the audience is taken six weeks later and faced with Lars’ surprising announcement.

Lars finally has the confidence to ask Gus and Karen if he can come round for dinner with his girlfriend. Happy and surprised by this request, they quickly find out that his girlfriend is actually a manikin doll and they find this a difficult situation, especially as Lars believes she is real. They take him to see Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), a doctor who communicates with Lars on a one-to-one therapy by pretending to help the doll and asking him about their relationship, as well as his own personal feelings on life. Everyone within the small town uses the doll as a way of getting Lars to communicate and open up with the people around him, eventually talking to and building a friendship with one of his co-workers, Margo (Kelli Garner).

One of the things I personally found respectful was the writer and director’s choice of not wanting the audience to know why Lars may be different from everyone and it was nice to see how the manikin doll was helping him to communicate and become more aware of how much the people around him care. However, Lars has other odd traits about him, including feeling hurt when receiving a hug and unaware of some people staying away from him, which the director and writer continues on not giving the character a label.

Compared with some films where the main character is given a label for their reason of being different, including Adam (dir. Max Mayer) and Snow Cake (dir. Marc Evans), the audience is then given a reason to treat them differently for their difficulty of socialising. This is becoming a typical use of narrative in a film for socially awkward characters and this film does help to bring a breath of fresh air.

The communication between Lars and his manikin doll is not as physical as most people would first think it would be and the audience would see that the doll is used as a companion for Lars to bring out the best from himself. For example, there’s a scene when he’s in church and we see him smile at church for the first time and sitting with his family and manikin doll.

For the supporting characters, they treat this situation as a means of communicating with Lars and make him aware of how much the people in his life love him. Two examples for this is one where the local hairdresser asks Lars if they can cut his doll’s hair and for his opinion on what he likes and the second is when Margo touches his hand after a game of bowling and doesn’t react painfully.

Both the crew and cast have managed to do a great job of bringing the film’s narrative to life.

The cast of the film show off their performances brilliantly, with Paul Schneider’s character playing as Gus who finds it hard to accept Lars’ mental illness and to communicate with a doll, while Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson and Kelli Gardner play the caring female characters who want to help different parts of Lars’ difficulties, with Emily’s character trying to get him to socialise, Patricia’s character studying his behaviour and Kelli’s character just simply wants to know who he really is. Of course, Ryan Gosling who plays Lars does a fantastic performance and manages to make you believe that he is truly developing his lack of social skills and creates a very emotional finale of the film.

Though the cast did very well portraying their characters, the crew have to also be praised for their effort in making the story come to life. Considering this is Craig Gillespie’s directing debut, he has managed to get the most out of both the cast and crew, making a strange-but-loving mix of drama, comedy and romance. It is also the screenwriter’s first time feature film as well and Nancy Oliver has previously written on acclaimed drama television shows (her work includes Six Feet Under and True Blood) and it’s interesting to see how well she’s done with a hundred minute film.

The film is very quirky and some people may even find it slightly surreal, but it’s a lovely film for being innocent and emotional and it’s nice to see a film that tries to help Lars, rather then trying to find out what’s wrong with him, resulting in a very touching watch.

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