Lars and the Reel Girl


Review in a Hurry:  Here's the story of a small-town man in love with a life-size, anatomically correct sex doll–and they say there are no good roles for women in Hollywood! Still, pretty touching and kindhearted...for a movie about a guy in love with a sex doll.

The Bigger Picture:  Lars (Ryan Gosling, sporting a bad porno mustache) is one of those loners who's nice and polite, but in a might-have-a-human-head-in-the-fridge sort of way. He lives in the garage of his childhood home, wears his baby blanket as a scarf and avoids any human contact. His sister-in-law, Karin—played by Emily Mortimer, who is simply freaking adorable—has to literally wrestle him to the ground to get him to come to dinner.

Lars' life changes when he finds out about the Real Doll from a porn-surfing coworker. If you're a regular Howard Stern listener, you know what this is. For the rest of you, the Real Doll is a life-size, anatomically correct mannequin custom-made for people too sad to hire an actual hooker. Six weeks later, a giant crate arrives, and the fun —and by "fun," we mean "excruciating social discomfort"—begins: Lars' family and friends all go along with his delusion that "Bianca" is alive.

This could have been a really twisted episode of Two and a Half Men, but the filmmakers skip the cheap jokes and go right for the heartstrings. Wisely, the ick factor is reduced by keeping Bianca and Lars' relationship chaste—he never actually, uh, squeezes the Charmin.

Eventually, the whole town grows to accept Lars' problem—and Bianca, too. She's even elected to the school board while Lars learns how to talk to real people. We learn more about Bianca's life than we do about Lars, however, and never really see what messed him up so bad. But everybody here is just so charming, and lifelike, as Bianca serves as a set of silicone training wheels for Lars on his wobbly journey back to humanity.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  C'mon! Couldn't we get at least a couple of cheap jokes? It might have helped the deadly earnestness of this story.

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