By Marti Jonjak
To denote a character’s socially awkward persona, a Hollywood protocol dictates that this character is to be perpetually clad in an array of unflattering brown sweaters. In Lars and the Real Girl, the stereotypes don’t stop there. Lars (Ryan Gosling) twitches, writhes, and hyperventilates regularly, and with gusto. He is an earnest, yet freakishly shy, office worker who lives in his brother’s garage. When other characters conduct conversations with Lars, his speech is painfully lumbering, and when he is touched by another, he feels a searing hot pain.
To conquer his debilitating loneliness, Lars purchases a life-sized sex doll through the internet. Bianca is made of silicon. Her eyes stare blankly ahead, and her mouth is obscenely agape. Her enormous breasts embellish her petite torso, and when she sits upright, her knees bow outward suggestively. Remaining accurate to the real-life sex-doll phenomenon, we learn that she is also anatomically correct.
But we don’t learn this bit of information via Lars’s prurient rumblings. While he believes that she is real, Lars will never become intimate with Bianca. Conveniently, the writers of Lars and the Real Girl chose to cast Lars as a die-hard religious fanatic. And since religious people never have premarital sex with one another, nor do they even consider it, the base controversy to this creepy courtship is crisply tossed aside. Bianca bides her time in bulky sweaters and a hand-knitted afghan (presumably made by someone’s grandmother) is strewn across her lifeless lap. As her role as a community philanthropist becomes established, she is smilingly wheeled from one church-going octogenarian to another.
Because that’s the great thing about small towns in Northern Wisconsin, where this movie takes place. When a thoughtful and earnest young man like Lars sinks into the murky depths of mental illness, an accepting and tolerant Midwestern community will happily display its firm and unrelenting support. And maybe with enough love and acceptance, Lars will even be able to break from that pesky psychosis that shrouds his brain. And who would’ve thought it—but this plastic Bianca sex has taught us more about real love and the value of giving than any living person every could. And so on, and so on. From there, the movie dissolves into its sugary end.
Sticky-sweet stereotypes and a formulaic predictability: not what one would expect from a movie that touts a life-sized sex doll as its main character. For those looking to be equally repulsed and intrigued, Rock Schroeter’s 2002 documentary Guys and Dolls showcases real-life sex doll relationships in their unbearable glory. For those looking to be embraced by a Midwestern community: stay far away from small towns in Northern Wisconsin. There, skinless deer carcasses hang from leafless trees, and grizzled lumberjacks roam the deep wilderness. And for those looking to be entertained: skip Lars and the Real Girl. It’s just another schlocky piece of plastic.