“Lars and The Real Girl,” review by Susan Granger

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Who would think that the story of reclusive man and his mail-order sex doll would make a remarkably sensitive and tender, PG-13 romantic comedy?

Shy, withdrawn Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) lives a lonely existence in a sparsely furnished garage room next to his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and pregnant sister-in-law Karen’s (Emily Mortimer) clapboard home in a nameless Midwestern town.

At work one day, Lars’ porn-addicted cubicle-mate shows him how you can order a life-size, pliable plastic ‘woman of your dreams’ on the Internet. A few weeks later when ‘Bianca’ arrives, Lars gently unpacks her and, that evening, escorts her to a family dinner, introducing her as his Brazilian/Danish girlfriend who cannot walk and, therefore, needs a wheelchair. Respectfully he explains how she’ll need her own room because, after all, they’re not yet married.

Alarmed yet fiercely protective, Gus and Karen insist they visit the family doctor/psychologist (Patricia Clarkson) who advises that everyone go along with Lars’ delusion…and, amazingly enough, they do. That includes the bewildered church ladies and Lars’ otherwise cynical co-workers, including a young woman (Kelli Garner) who has a crush on him. Perhaps that’s because their pastor poses the question: “What would Jesus do?” Indeed, due to the townspeople’s kindness and generosity, Bianca soon becomes an integral member of the tight-knit community.

Screenwriter Nancy Oliver (HBO’s “Six Feet Under”) and director Craig Gillespie (“Mr. Woodcock”) consistently downplay the obvious slapstick aspects while slowly developing the characters. After boldly matching wits with Anthony Hopkins in “Fracture,” Ryan Gosling affects a more unobtrusive, understated demeanor, yet never quite succeeding in convincing us that he’s sane. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Lars and the Real Girl” is a sentimental 7, chronicling a very strange relationship.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.