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FILM REVIEW: LARS AND THE REAL GIRL August 19, 2009

Posted by Onely in film review.
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I watched this comedy movie, Lars and the Real Girl.  And I can’t figure out whether, as a Oneler, I hate the movie or love it. Copious Readers, can you help?

Lars is an introvert who lives next to his brother Gus and sister-in-law Karin. The movie opens with Karin at Lar’s door inviting him to breakfast. She worries about him because, as she has told her brother, he “spends so much time by himself”. After Lars doesn’t come to breakfast, later in the evening she jumps in front of his car, forcing him to brake suddenly. When he darts out of the car to see what the matter is, she asks him to dinner with her and her husband. Crazy woman, huh? Yet in the beginning of the movie, Lars is the one portrayed as wacky and incomplete. There is a backstory having to do with his depressed dad or something, but it doesn’t become clear until three quarters through the movie. Until then, whenever an eligible woman tries to strike up a conversation with Lars, he flinches and flees. There is the usual singlist rhetoric: a woman at church asks him if he’s seeing anyone, then asks him if he’s gay, then tells him it’s not good for him to live alone for too long. 

So far, so boring. But THEN it gets wierd. Lars shows up at Gus and Karin’s door saying he has a new “friend” whom he “met on the internet”. He asks if he can bring her to dinner too. Karin and Gus are thrilled, until he shows up for the meal with a lifesize, anatomically correct blowup doll named Bianca.  With a straight face, Lars introduces Bianca to the couple. Karin and Gus stare, astonished and horrified, as he talks to her, cuts her food for her, and explains that she normally uses a wheelchair but it was stolen, along with her suitcase, when she flew in from Brazil. 

I thought that Lars was possibly just performing some serious head-messing with Gus and Karin. But the couple never even considered the possibility that he was jerking them around as revenge for their nagging. They just immediately assumed he was crazy, and started to play along, albeit with rather shocked faces. If I had brought a blowup doll to my singlist friends’ house, I would hope they’d have taken it as a joke rather than assuming that poor Christina had cracked up in her single desperation, which is what the film portrays as happening to Lars. In the movie, the psychologist says mental illness is sometimes a means of communication, and the best way to help Lars is to go along with his “delusion”. 

Even at this point, I was still hoping that Lars was using Bianca to make a point about singlism–but no, he actually thinks she’s real (we know this once we see him take her, alone, to the woods to see a tree house). I was disappointed, but then I started wondering if maybe Lars and Bianca’s relationship is actually a commentary on couple-mania. 

What do you think? Here’s a synopsis (SPOILER ALERT) from IMDB

As time passes, Lars begins to introduce Bianca as his girlfriend to his co-workers and various townspeople. Aware of the situation, everyone reacts to the doll as if she were real, and Bianca soon finds herself involved in volunteer programs, getting a makeover from the local beautician, and working part-time as a model in a clothing store. Due to their acceptance of Bianca, Lars soon finds himself interacting more with people. At work, he takes notice of Margo, and when she reveals she has broken up with her boyfriend, Lars agrees to go bowling with her while Bianca attends a school board meeting. (Onely’s note: It is around this time that in one sterling moment, Lars says, “I asked Bianca to marry me–she said no”.) The two (Lars and Margo) spend a pleasant evening, although Lars is quick to remind Margo he could never cheat on Bianca. She replies she would never expect that of him and tells him she hopes one day to find a man as faithful as he.

One morning, Lars discovers Bianca is unresponsive, and she’s rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Her prognosis isn’t good, and Lars announces Bianca would like to be brought home. News of her illness spreads through town, and everyone whose life has been touched by Bianca brings flowers or food to the Lindstrom home. Gus and Karin suggest Lars and Bianca join them for a visit to the lake. While the couple is hiking, Lars kisses Bianca for the first time, just before she dies.

Bianca is given a funeral all the townspeople attend. After Bianca is buried, Lars and Margo linger at the gravesite and, having come to terms with past traumas, ready to accept adult responsibilities, and filled with newfound self-confidence, he asks her if she would like to take a walk with him, an invitation she happily accepts.

I know the above synopsis is veering into singlism territory with the talk of “adult” responsibilities (implying that before Lars and Margo found each other, they were not adult?). But I don’t care about the synopsis–I care about the movie. What do you think the filmmakers were trying to say?  

I have decided: I love the movie. Not because it was anti-singlist in some ways, but because it made me think and laugh. 

–Christina

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Comments»

1. Onely - August 19, 2009

Christina — I watched this movie pre-Onely and would have to watch it again to determine whether it’s pro- or anti-singlism, BUT no matter what, I TOTALLY LOVE IT. Everyone — run, don’t walk! — to see Lars and the Real Girl.

L
p.s. maybe the “Real Girl” part of the title can give us a clue into what the movie is trying to say? The blow-up doll is thing that can come close to a “real girl” for Lars?

2. Sixty and Single in Seattle - August 19, 2009

I love this movie because it’s full of kindness. And acceptance. I don’t remember details, but if comments are made that seem “singlist,” I’m guessing they’d be in the context of a belief that it’s good for everybody to have a special someone to love. And I buy that.

3. autonomous - August 19, 2009

I saw this months ago and absolutely loved it. I agree with SixtyandSingle that it is kindness and acceptance. I also loved that it treated our very human need for connection in such a creative way- ultimately we all crave it in some form and often it’s only fear that separates us. For those of us who have felt that separation, of being quirky, an oddball or an outcast, this is a wonderful film of suspending judgment.

4. Onely - August 19, 2009

How is it that everyone has seen this movie and I only just heard of it? I thought it was some obscure indie thing. = ) If you remember, Karin gives a big yelling-speech to Lars about how DARE he accuse them of not caring about him, because the reason the townspeople have all accepted Bianca is because they care about HIM. That’s fine, but in the beginning of the movie they didn’t really show anyone (except maybe Karin) actually caring about Lars. We only see them engaging with Lars *after* Bianca becomes part of his life. This reminded me that often people are more “accepted” once they become coupled.

That said, I did really like the movie, even while suffering from one of the frequent bouts of Deconstructivism that Lisa and I caught after starting Onely.
–Christina

5. Onadrought - August 20, 2009

Like Sixty in Seattle, loved it for its kindness and acceptance. I didn’t feel it was anti-single, just that some people don’t fit into this world and that makes it hard for them to relate to the mainstream and vice versa. Loved it. As odd as it might appear, a real feel good movie, along with being thought provoking.

6. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles - August 21, 2009

Okay. This is on my Netflix, and I’m afraid of getting spoiled, so I’m just going to move it up to the top of the list, watch it, and then come back here and read your review! 🙂

Onely - August 22, 2009

Oh that was smart, Singletude–I forgot to post a spoiler alert at the top!! Will do so now.
CC

7. Singlutionary - August 21, 2009

Uhhhhhh. I haven’t seen it and I don’t think I want to. I did enjoy “away we go” which might be a singlist movie but I actually found it to be Singlutionary in some ways.

8. Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles - August 28, 2009

The verdict: Loved it! Best movie I’ve seen in awhile!

I didn’t see it as a movie about singles or singlism as much as a movie about self-isolation, loneliness, and human connection. Lars is a young man whose deep fear of losing the people he loves has driven him to withdraw completely from everyone and erect impermeable emotional barriers to keep others out. Although there’s an elderly lady in his church congregation who makes some singlist comments, I think most of the community embraces Bianca not so much because she’s supposed to be a girlfriend per se as because she’s the only attempt he’s made to establish a social connection. In other words, I think if he had said the doll was his best friend, their reactions would have been similar.

Actually, I think the movie is fairly pro-single. Dagmar, the physician, is a child-free widow who is portrayed in a very positive light, and Lars’s eventual love interest, Margo, breaks up with her boyfriend because she realizes that just being lonely is not a good enough reason to date someone she doesn’t really like. Throughout the movie, we see Lars letting go of Bianca as he learns to interact with real people, not just women, but his brother and sister-in-law, co-workers, and friends from church. These relationships are given as much respect as his “romantic” relationship with Bianca. By the end of the movie, although there’s the suggestion that he might pursue a dating relationship with Margo, it’s an open ending. There’re no kisses, roses, or rings, just the understanding that he’s gotten past his fear of abandonment enough to let people in and that one of them might be Margo.

This one gets five stars from me! It’s an original story, beautifully acted, and the message about a community uniting to help someone in distress heal is very uplifting.

Onely - August 29, 2009

Good points–especially that the ending with Margo is open. I would, however, like to see the movie Lars and the Best Friend to see if it plays out as you say! = )
Christina

9. Trauma Queen - November 19, 2009

seems to be a really stupid movie….but then again – need to watch it to really form an opinion…

10. Unexpected Christmas Present - December 26, 2009

Singletude – What a thought provoking, insightful review. I saw it Christmas night while flipping through the channels because my DVR was unusually empty. I live in a small town, but we are lucky that we have a small theater that makes the risky move of showing independent, “non-blockbuster” movies. I did not take advantage of it while it was in the theater, even though the reviews were pretty good.

It took me a few moments to suspend my disbelief, and I will admit I called my husband in at key scenes to laugh snidely at some moments. However, I absolutely loved it. The goal of the movie was to highlight the human condition; it was just done in an unusual way. I say bravo!

11. Irony is bliss - February 19, 2010

Onely –
Its not that the townspeople never cared about Lars before
He introduced Bianca; but often times people in general have a hard
Time expressing feelings. Its always easier to use a different form
Of communication thatn just out right asking someone if they’re ok,
Or telling them you love them. Such as flowers, a note, emailing or texting
Instead of calling, etc. Bianca was used as a form of communication.
A conduit. The more you get used to something, the easier it is to use.

12. Irony is bliss - February 19, 2010

Also, did anyone notice the similarities between Margo and Lars? She has a teddy bear, he carries a blanket.
They both are socially awkward and low on the experience level.
They also both are the only two that wear those ridiculous knitted sweaters.
Lars makes a reference to his in the beginning of the movie, and later at the party you see Margo in one with a horse on it.

13. latinnerd - March 3, 2010

This is based on the mythological story “Pygmalion”, where a sculptor falls in love with it’s creation. Research and read the story, and you will see the parallels.

14. Ian - August 18, 2010

you cant work out what you think because you are assuming its a comedy! Its not a comedy. Its a film about how a young man copes with his mother dying during his birth, living with a father who was heart broken because of this, and coming to terms with physical contact with women.


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