In review: Lars and the Real Girl

Often times, a low-budget independent film starring a big name actor suffers from having them give a truly great performance that outshines everything else the film does. You see it countless times when the Academy Award nominations are announced each year, where a star’s performance seems to be the only thing the movie in question really has going for it.

“Lars and the Real Girl” potentially could have suffered from the same thing. The vastly underrated Ryan Gosling didn’t get an Academy Award nomination for his role as the lead in the film, but he probably should have. Luckily enough, however, the film also has an incredibly polished script that did earn an Academy Award nomination and perhaps even outshines the magnificent performance that Gosling gives.

Set in Wisconsin, Gosling plays social outcast Lars. The character has a troubled past, one explained gradually throughout the film. As a result, he has become a loner.

That is until he discovers a Web site that sells made-to-order sex dolls. When he stumbles upon the site, Lars purchases a doll and names her Bianca. However, Lars doesn’t use her for its intended purpose. Rather, he begins to treat the doll as though she were the love of his life and an actual person.

Although it would be easy for the film to take the subject matter and turn it into a comedy, it maintains a level of respect for everyone involved. Many sequences seem intended to make the viewer form an opinion on if what Lars is doing is OK. He isn’t hurting anyone with what he is doing, but, at the same time, it is socially unacceptable. It is possible that he is suffering from a mental disorder, but with Bianca he is truly happy and content with his life. The film never makes a judgment or pushes anything on to the viewer. Rather, it allows everything to unfold in a way that lets each individual make up their own mind.

The believability of the tale is additionally something the film has. The writer of the film almost acknowledge that what is happening is almost unbelievable, so they set the film up in such a way that it becomes believable. When the women in Lars’ small town start to approve of his love for Bianca, it is clear they do so because they are lacking love in their life. They see Lars’ treatment of Bianca and it makes them overlook the oddness of it because they are in fact yearning for that treatment. And the men are presented as being sick of the women of the town, so when Lars gets involved with the likeness of a woman who he never fights with or is nagged by, they seem to think he’s the lucky one.

Gosling’s performance as Lars is just the icing on the cake. He truly embodies the character he plays, and gives his finest performance to date. Keep in mind he has an incredible résumé going for him and seems to build upon it with each role he takes. At no point in “Lars and the Real Girl” does the thought that he is Ryan Gosling ever come up. Nor is it hard for him to shed his past roles as logical romantics for a potentially mentally ill one. But perhaps most notably, he gives a flawless performance that doesn’t take away from the focus of the film, but only enhances it that much more.