LARS AND THE REAL GIRL directed by Craig Gillespie (USA/Canada, 2007)

Cover of "Lars and the Real Girl"

Cover of Lars and the Real Girl

What an odd and creepy movie this is.

it is billed as a comedy-drama, yet this quirky look at mental illness has no gags and practically no dramatic tension.

In the lead role as Lars Lindstorm, Ryan Gosling remains straight-faced throughout and believable as a painfully shy individual whose isolation is heightened by the fact that he cannot bear to be touched.

The consensus is that he needs the love of a good woman to bring him out of his shell. One equally gawky woman who works in the same office has a crush on him but he goes out of his way to avoid her.

Another work colleague, who spends a good part of the day looking for porn sites, inadvertently finds an alternative solution, He tells Lars about a Real Doll site and, although he feigns disinterest, we soon see Lars taking delivery of a wooden crate with his very own life-size silicone doll.

Scriptwriter Nancy Oliver took inspiration from the website and even a cursory glance at its Adults Only contents will tell you what these anatomically correct silicone models are designed for. Question 13 of the FAQs asks how sex feels (Q14 is ‘Tell me more about the doll’s entries’).

The answers assure customers that there are three entries for penetration and refer to the “power suction” in the vagina, “ultra-realistic labia” and even that “the inside of the mouth is ribbed for a very pleasurable effect”.

No hanky-panky in this bedroom.

Despite all these special features, we are asked to believe that Lars has ordered his doll, Bianca, as a soul mate rather than as a sex toy. He has conversations with her and she is introduced to everyone as his disabled girlfriend.

His brother and sister-in-law are persuaded to play along with the delusional disorder and after the initial shock, all the townsfolk do the same. The fact that nobody laughs at Lars or suggests calling the men in white coats means that this is the ultimate example of care in the community.

This level of kindness, patience and sympathy is understandable within his family and even from his doctor (played by the wonderful Patricia Clarkson) but it stretches the bounds of credibility that Lars is not subjected to ridicule when he takes Bianca to church, to parties or out shopping.

I suppose the message of the movie is that cures for this kind of mental condition have to come from the sufferer rather than from any shock treatment and in that sense its heart is in the right place.

The fundamental weakness, however, lies in the decision to dispense with any socio-sexual realism. I kept waiting for the money shot where Lars was caught trying-out one of Bianca’s entries but it (and he) never comes.