A doll, a delusion, and the great actor mix-up of 2007



Ryan Gosling is David Arquette in Lars and the Real Girl, director Craig Gillespie’s follow-up to his acclaimed (cough) debut, Mr. Woodcock.

It’s not the little goose’s fault he resembles Mr. Courteney Cox when he grows a ’stache and a donut ’round the middle. That’s nature, baby. That no one informed him that his acting choices were further blurring the Ryan-David line is somebody’s fault.

Distracting, yes, but at least he’s trying something new. My colleague Brian Villalobos was, after Fracture, convinced he’d gotten Goslinging (that’s gaw-slinging) down to an art form: “You keep your eyes sort of heavy-lidded and prop your mouth against the heel of your hand and look sideways at someone, and then you raise your eyebrows and remove your hand and say your line very quietly, like you don’t care ’bout NOTHIN’.”

Not so much of that here. Just an earnest, delusional Deputy Dewey (Arquette’s meek-n-mild Scream character, for those not in the know) who forms an unconsummated bond with a sex doll, much to the discomfort of his brother, in whose garage Lars dwells. Too bad; the family therapist says to go with it. Because Bianca — as Lars has baptized her — the life-sized Brazilian-Danish plastic companion was never really alive, she can never really die as his mother did during childbirth. (We all know how biodegradable plastic is.)

Aside from settling mommy issues, Bianca “helps” the aggressively introverted Lars step out of his tiny living space for something other than church. (Oh, don’t worry, she goes to church, too.) With Bianca by his side, Lars has the confidence to attend parties and eat family breakfasts. Eventually he is even able to leave his woman-shaped crutch behind for a night of group bowling.

The darkly comedic script, by Six Feet Under’s Nancy Oliver, is less than well-served by a few aspects of the production which give the final film an atonal quality. Paul Schneider, formerly of Third Watch, feels miscast as Gus, Lars’s older brother and Emily Mortimer’s husband. There are also the conversation scenes, where awkward cuts are executed not in coordination with speaker changes (and God forbid we get a master shot) but with the rhythm of an eye examination: Is it one, or two? One, or two? OK, two, or three? And so on. (I’m sorry to say that Lars editor Tatiana S. Riegel is also credited for editing the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson comeback There Will Be Blood. At least his cinematographer rocks.)

Despite these setbacks, I must say that I did like the movie. It is deeply sad, nicely scored, Lars’s chemistry with real real girl Kelli Garner (Thumbsucker’s femme fatale) is palpable, and last but not least, the film features a charming teddy-bear resuscitation scene. I’m not made of stone.

In short: “It’s a renter,” I told my mom.

“Who’s in it?” she asked.

“Ryan Gosling. That guy from The Notebook.”

“Well now I want to go see it because he’s in it.”

“And how do you feel about David
Arquette?” •


Lars and the Real Girl

Dir. Craig Gillespie, writ. Nancy Oliver; feat. Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner (PG-13)

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