Lars and the Real Girl

(USA, 2007, 106 mins.)  This is a movie about a guy named Lars who falls in love with an exotic woman from South America named Bianca. While every relationship has its challenges, this one is unusual because Bianca is a life size doll. Ryan Gosling’s skillful performance as the painfully shy and obviously needy Lars carries the narrative to a surprising level of satisfaction and success. (Bianca’s performance is predictably wooden.) This film by director Craig Gillespie is memorable for its determination never to mock Lars or his aberration, even as his bewildered brother, sister-in-law, and their rural community are challenged to find a respectful sense of humor about the new girl in town.  This is one of those movies where unheard-of eccentricity in the plot is matched by an ironic ability to help us understand what is “real.”