Lars and the Real Girl

lars_and_the_real_girl.jpgA most unlikely story, Lars and the Real Girl is a film about a socially awkward young man, Lars (Ryan Gosling) who purchases a blow-up sex doll named Bianca and becomes attached to it as though it were a real person. Lars finds his true love on a computer website brought to his attention by a co-worker at the office.

That in itself might not be such a huge deal – there is a market for blow-up dolls for a reason, and more than a few buyers at any given time. What makes this movie so unbelievable, bordering on the ridiculous, is that Lars’s brother (Paul Schneider) and sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer), in whose garage Lars lives, agree, along with practically the entire Midwestern community of which they are members, to go along with Lars’s delusion that Bianca is a genuine being, and at the request of Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), an unconventional doctor, encourage his relationship with “her.” Lars takes Bianca out in public and to social functions, and no one except Lars’s brother, who feels responsible for Lars’s emotional problems (Gus left the family after their father’s untimely death and felt that Lars was parentally neglected), seems to have much of a problem carrying out this deceptive and enabling behavior. It’s all just too much, and way too unbelievable. Where on the planet – much less the Midwest, of all places – could one possibly find an environment full of such empathic, compassionate, and understanding people willing to pull off this kind of stunt?

One is encouraged to suspend one’s belief at the movies – after all, with the exception of documentaries and true-life scenarios, one goes to films in order to get lost in fantasy. The problem with Lars and the Real Girl is that the film seems to be attempting to be quasi-serious; it is a comedy of sorts, but underlying the fragmented humor is pathos in addition to circumstances that reek of unaddressed pathology. Yes, Lars sees a mental health care professional at the insistence of his guilty brother, but she is about the worst of them all for allowing – nay, encouraging – him to immerse himself further in self-deception, even if her intentions are to eventually lead Lars to a place of psychological normalcy, if indeed he will ever be able to come close to it at all.

At one point Lars tells the doctor that he is unable to withstand the sensation of touch. This symptom, coupled with Lars’s inability to connect with others socially or emotionally, points to a possible diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder, a form of autism. Except for difficulty with social interactions, sensory issues, and a number of other irregularities, people afflicted with Asperger’s disorder generally function exceptionally well. Lars and the Real Girl does not directly address the possibility of Lars as autistic, but currently autism is getting a great deal of public attention and is a focus of much research in the scientific and public health communities.

The acting in Lars and the Real Girl is excellent, and Ryan Gosling does a wonderful job relaying the twitchy awkwardness and social repression of a quirky if not downright disabled young man. The supporting cast holds its own as well, including Kelli Garner as similarly awkward co-worker Margo, who takes an interest in Lars despite his attachment to his plastic girlfriend.

If it weren’t for the inanity of the concept, the movie could be moving and entertaining. The overly Pollyanna-esqueness and irresponsibility of those in Lars’s inner circle unfortunately make this impossible. – Alison McParlin Davis-Murphy

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Ms. Davis-Murphy was born in NYC, grew up in Greenwich Village, graduated from Barnard College, Musician's Institute in LA, and in 2001 received her Master's degree in Psychology from Phillips Graduate Institute in LA. An avid photographer, guitarist, and pianist, she currently lives in California with her husband and six cats, and is working on her semi-autobiography titled The Naked Ballerina: Diary of a Professional Tease.

Love in Unusual Circumstances

Thank you for your comment regarding my review of Lars and the Real Girl (12/4/07)!

I'd like to clarify that it wasn't Lars' finding love in the unusual manner he happened to do so that was unbelievable; it was the collective support that he received from the community (Midwestern and presumably conservative) that I had difficulty seeing as realistic.

As far as the reality of your finding love with a kind and understanding girl, I think it's more than possible -- as a person with Asperger's you may face different challenges, but by no means will they necessarily preclude your ability to have a satisfying romantic life.

As you probably know, many people with Asperger's have extraordinary capabilities and can learn ways of dealing with social cues more efficiently. Finding a qualified therapist specializing in Asperger's might be a first step, and building self-esteem the next.

It's difficult for most people to find genuine happiness and long-term love with others, but certainly worth the effort. I wish you the best and perhaps with a little help -- Lord knows we could ALL use some of that -- you'll get what you want -- and deserve.

Re: reply

You are so sweet, (if I can say that here), for your supportive comments.
Another thing that I liked about the movie was that it didn't identify Lars as being diagnosed with Asperger's. The movie simply pointed out his challenges. That's the reality that I live in, no label, just the differences. And you're right, the community support was not realistic at all. However, I easily talk to and share with other's on support websites so that is where I do get support. The internet is a great tool for that. How is it that you are so well informed? Its quite uncanny in your perceptions. : )

Lars and the real girl

I liked your review, but you stop short of embracing it I think because its an unbelievable situation. However, I grew up hoping for the unbelievable to happen to me, and it hasn't yet. So I really loved this movie because it gave me a glimpse of what life could be like. I have Asperger's and immediately related to Lars. I never felt like an outcast until middle school, where I all of a sudden realized that I was different from not only my peers, but also my siblings. It is a struggle being different, and not always understanding why, and not being able to explain it to others. ( I don't want people to think of me even less than they do now). I would love to find an understanding and loving girl like Lars finally did. But I am frozen from acting on it. But I loved watching Lars evolve.

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