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IN SHORT: Almost a major break-out from the arthouse. Almost. [Rated PG-13 for some sex-related content. 106 minutes]
We're just guessing but, by our estimate, in the twelve or so years that we've been writing as Cranky, the most used individual comment has to be "If only there had been enough time to do one more pass on the script..." Said comment is perfectly applicable to Lars and the Real Girl, which is as close to a raucous-slash-"intelligent" comedy as an arthouse target will allow. Don't raise your eyebrows at the description, this flick was penned by former Six Feet Under scribe Nancy Oliver. We liked that HBO series for most of its run. We didn't mind sitting for Lars and the Real Girl, either. But it could have been so much funnier, yadda yadda one more pass yadda . . .
Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling), the star of the show, is a single, multi-phobic twentysomething who lives out in the separate garage of the house inherited by himself and his brother Gus (Paul Schneider). Gus shares the main house with his wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) and the pair do their best to get Lars to overcome his fears and leave the garage and, maybe, go out on a date. Time is ticking, as Karin is very pregnant and, obviously, the pair won't have time to share in the ho-hunting duties once the kidlet arrives.
We apologize for that "ho" crack. It's a desperate grab for attention from a much younger demographic, who aren't going to "get" this film anyways. Besides, it fills space as we debate within or self as to how much to give away of this potential gem (again, if you love and prefer the films that sit in the local art house, you will love Lars. Really, you will.)
It's not all that pathetic. Lars does hold a job and he is perfectly sociable in that environment. He's just oblivious to the possibilities inherent in the workplace, which includes young Margo (Kelli Garner) who lusts for Lars from not that afar -- the girl practically throws herself at the guy, several times, in what passes for aggressive feminity in the cold Midwest or Far North. We're not quite sure where this film takes place and, regardless. it's OK to feel sorry for the girl. Really, it is. Lars is totally oblivious, especially when, spurred on by a co-worker's surfing through the Internet, he finds the "perfect" girl.
Her name is Bianca (herself). She is half-Danish and half-Brazilian, raised by an order of nuns after her missionary parents were killed on the job . . . wait, it gets better . . . Bianca is confined to a wheelchair and is so shy that her spoken words need to be repeated by Lars. Lars doesn't mind. Bianca is, after all, the perfect woman for him. From the tip of her wig to the plastic soles of her feet Bianca is a doll. Obvious to all save Lars, "Bianca" is a RealGirl™, the kind advertised on the 'net. Lars has paid for Bianca come out and "stay" with him wherever it is he lives, though he does ask Gus to let her stay in the main house's spare room. Propriety must be observed, after all. Neighbors will gossip, thinks the oblivious Lars.
But he's so happy, who's going to bring reality crashing down on the po' boy's head? Not his family. Not his town, all at the suggestion of Dr. Dagmar Berman (Patricia Clarkson), the town doctor/psychologist -- it's a small town way up north in some place like Minnesota or Canada. It will work well for those a bunch of years beyond college, as most non-teen starring funny films tend to do. Being such a small town, the word is passed by the local Reverend at a church meeting and the entire town accepts Bianca as a "real girl".
Well, Gus thinks his brother ought to be committed but he's convinced to play along. We wouldn't have a movie to watch if he didn't, right? And so come the laffs in this flick as everyone plays along to help Lars get through his delusion. Maybe he does. Maybe he doesn't. Either way the story resolves itself nicely.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Lars and the Real Girl , he would have paid . . .
It's a dateflick and, depending on your particuar theater preference, either a good one or a better one.
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