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 ...1