Pop Culture Diary: Lars and the Real Girl

For lack of a better idea on consistent posting in this space, but armed with the desire to do so, today commences my pop culture diary. Basically, I am going to attempt to, semi-daily, write up my personal interactions with pop culture, whatever they may be. This site was designed to yearn more opinions than news, anyway.

I’m a bit of a sap when it comes to the movies, that much I freely admit. The “feel good” genre almost entirely aims at me as their intended audience, so we have a nice, cohesive relationship. So, when I heard the premise of “Lars and the Real Girl”, I held out hope when others did not. Fellow friends and fans of Ryan Gosling were appalled by the decision, far more happy when he teamed up with Anthony Hopkins for “Fracture”.

After suffering through 2007 without seeing the movie, but staying convinced that it was for me, the movie faced my high expectations yesterday. And it met them. It’s an absolutely beautiful story about the human spirit, about mental illness, and ultimately, about love. Where “Juno” saw a screenplay yearn far more praise than it deserved thanks to an ensemble cast, “Lars” is a screenplay that needs very little. It’s the story, it’s the belief that makes us fall in love.

If you haven’t heard the plot by now, a quick run-through: Lars (Gosling) is a hopelessly quiet, unsatisfied twentysomething trapped in a garage while his brother and sister-in-law live in the family house inherited by the brothers. He is much loved, be it by the sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer) or a co-worker with a long-standing crush (an incredibly cute Kelli Garner). To fill the void of a female companion in his life, Gosling delusions a sex doll into a real girlfriend.

That’s the plot, but the heart of the story is the town’s embrace of Lars and his “girlfriend”, Bianca. They go beyond not passing judgment, and go as far to accepting Bianca as a real person — treating her as Lars does. For many people in the town, Bianca becomes something just as she has with Lars. What begins as a way to help a peer cope becomes something larger for everyone, and it’s through them that Lars is eventually able to return himself to normalcy.

The problem with the movie, for me, is that it’s packaged as a comedy. It’s not that at all; for me, the comedic elements fail almost entirely. Silences that are supposed to garner laughter actually made me uncomfortable, and the cheap laughs always seemed too cheap for the premise. The acting in the movie outside of Gosling and Garner is questionable, as well.

But I don’t see why the failure to conform to an assigned genre should yield a negative review, and I won’t let it here. “Lars and the Real Girl” is a feel-good movie about the possibilities of dealing with mental health and the possibilities of acceptance. I’m not sure if it’s a movie telling us what could be, or a movie telling us what lies deep, down and within towns across America. But either way, it’s a movie that inspires, it’s a movie that believes in the sensitivity of the human spirit. For Oliver’s script to make so many believe, from director Craig Gillespie to this ensemble to, ultimately us, is the true symbol of its genius.

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