Lars and the Real Girl
Lars and the Real Girl is a sweet and endearing film about a shy, reclusive man who strikes up a chaste relationship with a sex doll that he orders over the Internet—and the film is, indeed, so sweet and endearing that it's kind of a pity that the man's imaginary girlfriend is a sex doll and not, say, a department-store mannequin or a crash-test dummy. If it were not for the occasional and very discreet references to the doll's anatomical correctness—a subject that is raised and addressed by a few of the other characters but never by the man himself—this could have been the sort of film you'd consider taking your mother to.
But since the man is dating a sex doll, we might as well note that the film's risqué premise actually serves to underscore the man's decency and goodness. Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) has brought the doll into his life, and named it "Bianca," because for some reason he cannot let himself get too close to anyone, not even his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer). And he certainly can't handle the thought of dating an actual woman, even though he has an attractive, perky co-worker named Margo (Kelli Garner) who sings in the choir at his church and is obviously interested in him.
But his intentions with Bianca are pure. Bianca is "very religious," says Lars, and she insists on living under a separate roof—so Lars persuades the befuddled Gus and Karin to give Bianca a room to sleep in. Lars respects Bianca's boundaries so much that he even persuades Karin to bathe her and dress her when Lars isn't there to look. Is Lars putting on an act to manipulate his friends and family? It doesn't seem that way, since he treats Bianca as though she were a real person even when there is no one else around.
Not surprisingly, Gus thinks his brother Lars is nuts. But Karin plays along with what seems to be a delusion on Lars's part—and when the local doctor, Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), explains that Lars is working out some sort of deep psychological problem, it isn't long before pretty much the entire town is playing along and treating Bianca as though she were a real person. And that includes the local minister, Reverend Bock (R.D. Reid), who welcomes Bianca into the fold because that, he says, is what Jesus would do.
Surprisingly, given his choice of companion, the underlying psychological problem faced by Lars does not appear to be sexual. When Dagmar asks Gus and Karin if the family has seen any changes lately, the only thing they can think of is the fact that Karin is pregnant. And Lars does, indeed, seem to be very concerned for Karin and her baby. In the film's very first scene, Lars insists that Karin wear a blanket to stay warm, and we later learn that this blanket was knitted for Lars by his mother before she died giving birth to him.
Lars takes his baby blanket everywhere, but he is not the only character who hasn't fully grown up yet. His co-worker Kurt (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos)—the one who drew his attention to the "Real Dolls" website in the first place—keeps action figures in his cubicle, and when Margo teases him by hiding them, Kurt threatens to do something to her teddy bear in return. And so it comes as little surprise when Reverend Bock delivers a sermon on the passage in 1 Corinthians about becoming a man and putting childish things away.