Lars and the Real Girl stars Ryan Gosling as a loner who doesn’t allow himself to come close to anyone, not even his brother (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer). He certainly can’t handle the thought of a relationship with an actual woman, even though he has a co-worker named Margo (Kelli Garner) who is obviously interested in him.
So he buys a ‘Real Doll’ – an anatomically correct replica of a human female – over the internet. But instead of treating the doll – which he calls ‘Bianca’ – as the sex toy that it is, he sets her up in his brother’s house, and treats her like a bona fide girlfriend. Theirs is a very chaste relationship, he says, because Bianca is ‘religious.’ He even takes her to church.
Needless to say, this strikes everyone as strange at first, but when the local doctor (Patricia Clarkson) explains that Lars is working out some sort of deep psychological problem, the town plays along and treats Bianca as though she were a real person. And that includes the local minister, who welcomes Bianca because that, he says, is what Jesus would do.
It sounds like it could be a wildly irreverent comedy, but Lars and the Real Girl is actually very sweet – so much so that the film’s distributor has been actively promoting the film to churches, with some success. Certainly, the film’s heart is in the right place.
As people treat Bianca like a real person, she begins to develop a life of her own, and this is one of several things that forces a somewhat jealous Lars to come out of his shell and open up to the real people around him.
In its own strange, eccentric and mildly risqué way, Lars and the Real Girl is an endearing parable about the need to put away childish things.