I am literally the heart emoji meme when it comes to this movie. Aside from the legendary Paddington 2, I think Lars and the Real Girl is the most wholesome movie to come into existence. Written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Craig Gillespie, who surprisingly also directed the complete opposite and very not wholesome film I, Tonya last year, Lars and the Real Girl stars my wHite bae Ryan Gosling as the titular Lars. He is very shy, introverted, anxious and has lots of trouble socializing with friends and family alike. So when he comes home one day with a girlfriend/blow-up doll named Bianca, people are seriously like what the fuck. Not only does he look creepy (that Post Malone-esque pedo-stache certainly does not help), but now he’s unironically carrying around a blow-up doll as his real-life companion. The film has a kooky premise that really delivers on its message about helping each other along in the face of detrimental anxiety, which I’m ALL about.
This snot-faced boy in middle school once tried to shame me for being excited to see a new Harry Potter movie because he was convinced that I was only excited for it because of Daniel Radcliffe. DANIEL. RADCLIFFE. Not only is that a far reach and a hard pass, but what a straight up misogyny! In that same vein, I know most people will likely pass on Lars and the Real Girl because of Ryan Gosling - he is the Internet’s first boyfriend after all. But of all the other (and better-looking) movies he’s been in, it truly was this film that made me admire Gosling as an actor. His portrayal of Lars is tender and well thought out. Lars, whose mom died when he was born and was left with his grief-stricken father, feels extremely isolated, despite his family and community members reaching out to try to support him. He has really bad anxiety, which I #identify with, and it manifests in him believing Bianca to be a real person. His therapist urges the family to go along with him, and convinces the town to help as well, in helping Lars go through whatever he’s working through in depending on Bianca. For my fellow psych freaks out there, this is an interesting psychoanalytic take on Lars by Dr. Margaret Jordan.
I have to say, for a super white, middle of nowhere but definitely in the midwest, tiny town, the townspeople are very open and tolerant to Lars and Bianca. Would they be nearly as tolerant to, say, queer people of color? Something tells me no.
But, it’s a touching sentiment that the town goes very far, even further than Lars, in adopting Bianca as a real person in their neighborhood. What started out as an awkward playing-along for the sake of Lars, turns into a charming switch that ultimately allows him to eventually let go of Bianca as a crutch. The townspeople have schedules for her, invite them to parties as a couple, cut her hair, and more. Through Bianca, Lars is able to slowly but surely begin to socialize with others. There is a great scene later in the film when Lars reveals that Bianca is “dying”, leading to his family freaking out, but the therapist clarifies that it is technically Lars’ decision that Bianca is dying since she isn’t real. His decision to end her life (literally and figuratively) signifies an end to his need and dependence on her. Their last scene together is heartbreaking and Gosling’s acting is phenomenal.
Many critics really love this film, as do I, because of its intense purity. It’s a movie that really easily could have gone mocking or condescending or lewd (she’s a blow-up doll!) and this film is the farthest away from any of those things. It’s about the importance of mental health, about community, about friendship. It’s somehow light-hearted and funny and deep all at once AND you get to listen to Emily Mortimer’s great voice!