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Shy, withdrawn Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) lives a lonely existence in a sparsely furnished garage room next to his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and pregnant sister-in-law Karens (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 shell need her own room because, after all, theyre 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 thats because their pastor poses the question: What would Jesus do? Indeed, due to the townspeoples kindness and generosity, Bianca soon becomes an integral member of the tight-knit community.
Screenwriter Nancy Oliver (HBOs 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 hes sane. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Lars and the Real Girl is a sentimental 7, chronicling a very strange relationship.