Movie Review: Lars et l'amour en boite
By Michael Phillips, Tribune movie critic
"Lars and the Real Girl" peddles a brand of whimsy - kinky on the surface, enough to make Frank Capra gag underneath - that a lot of people enjoyed this year on the film festival circuit. I know people who cried, and who find it quirky and charming and a real treasure. And I am happy for these people, though I am not with them, because I find "Lars and the Real Girl" adorable in the worst way, bailed out only by most every member of its excellent cast.
Note that "most." I don't believe a single thing Ryan Gosling's doing in the leading role, which is borderline unplayable to begin with. He plays Lars, a sweet, pathologically shy man who lives in the converted garage behind the small-town family home. (The setting is somewhere in the Midwest, possibly Minnesota, given all the Lindstroms and Dagmars.) His brother Gus (Paul Scheider) and sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) look after him. He is a holy fool who never recovered from his mother's death in childbirth. The young man orders a sex doll in the mail, not for sex, but for simple companionship. At the urging of the family physician (Patricia Clarkson), Lars' family treats the doll, "Bianca," like the real girl Lars pretends she is. The whole town plays along, in fact, and everyone's transformed for the better, and you'll pardon me if I feeling like urping just a tiny bit at screenwriter Nancy Oliver's blend of pathos and heartland condescension.
Gosling grins and mugs and strains and none of it feels real, even bittersweet-comic-fable real. Everyone else in director Craig Gillespie's ensemble, including a winning Kelli Garner as Lars' pining co-worker, does feel real, which is saying something.
"Lars and the Real Girl"
Directed by Craig Gillespie; screenplay by Nancy Oliver; photographed by Adam Kimmel; edited by Tatiana S. Riegel; music by David Torn; production design by Arv Grewal; produced by Sidney Kimmel, John Cameron and Sarah Aubrey. A Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures release; in wide release starting Oct. 26. Running time: 1:46. MPAA rating: PG-13 (some sex-related content).
Lars - Ryan Gosling
Karin - Emily Mortimer
Dagmar - Patricia Clarkson
Gus - Paul Schneider
Margo - Kelli Garner