Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lars and the Real Girl (Movie Review)

What most bothers me about Lars and the Real Girl (2007) is that everyone refers to it as a "comedy" when, in fact, its humor derives almost entirely from the audience's discomfort with the subject matter.

In which case, yes, it is funny in parts. And yet, others, I'd wriggle a bit in my seat when the rest of the audience was laughing. And all of this because director Craig Gillepsie has complicated our perception of human tragedy (drama) by masking it with a ridiculous — though not entirely implausible — concept (comedy).

In short: Lars, well-played by Ryan Gosling (who could serve as a David Arquette double with his Lars-sytle 'stache), is a man in his late 20s/early 30s who keeps almost entirely to himself. He lives in the garage behind his brother and sister-in-laws home; both treat him well and are clearly fond of Lars, hermit that he is.

And though Lars seems capable of semi-normal human interaction, it's clear that he's on the verge of a breakdown — particularly after he orders a life-sized, anatomically correct "Real Girl" doll and passes her off as his girlfriend.

For a brief interval there, I thought Lars was being intentionally sarcastic — rebelling against all of the charges that he find a girlfriend, get married, etc. And so for about 10 minutes, I struggled rather substantially with his character (not to mention, the film as a whole).

But it soon becomes clear that Lars truly believe this "doll" is real. He's delusional, suffering from a mental disorder that clearly has roots in his family history.

The end result is touching, awkward, heartbreaking, and yet: downright sweet.

But the film's humor often requires we laugh at Lars, and the absurdity of his crush. And I had a difficult time laughing at Lars. Kind of like how when Estragon is struggling to pull off his boot at the beginning of Waiting for Godot, I recognize the humor and yet don't laugh along with the audience; rather, I feel a little sick... a little weak in the knees.

Which isn't to say I don't appreciate the way Gillepsie comedicized a tragic element of human existence by thrusting the absurd onto the screen. Because I do.

But then again, you're reading the blog of a girl who fell in love with the Theatre of the Absurd long before she learned the expression.



disgruntled world citizen said...

okay, okay, fine. i'll reread godot. its been years since i read it. maybe i'll "understand it" better this time around.

if I didn't have to drive up to 82nd street to see this movie I might just check it out.

Beth said...

I'm dying to see this. Great review; it's how I hoped the movie would be.

Meh said...

Didn't most of us have a "pretend" relationship at some point in our lives? If not with a made-up partner, then by believing the bond was greater than the reality?

patrick said...

the over all look and feel of Lars and the Real Girl reminded me a lot of Mozart and the Whale (Josh Hartnett plays a similar character as Ryan Gosling’s), well done over all, Gosling did a great job playing out his character's psychological transitions