Lars and the Real Girl
Starring Ryan Gosling, Patricia Clarkson, and Emily Mortimer. Rated PG.
Yes, the life-sized female companion ordered by the title character in Lars and the Real Girl is anatomically correct. Not that lonely Lars, as played by Ryan Gosling in mustache and perpetually baffled expression, is more than vaguely aware of that polypropylene purpose.
Adrift in a wintry small town, the pathologically shy young man is incapable of sustained human contact of any kind–even that supplied by his well-meaning sister-in-law, Karin (England's fine Emily Mortimer), who is married to his laconic older brother, Gus (funny Paul Schneider).
When even the gentle advances of an adorably goofy coworker ( Thumbsucker 's Kelli Garner) prove too much for him, Lars hits the Internet, not in search of a 3-D porn toy but for a relationship that won't throw him any curve balls–you know, with all that talking, feeling, and (gulp) desire. So with the arrival of his version of a mail-order bride, dark-haired Bianca ("she's half-Brazilian and half-Danish"), 27-year-old Lars has a shaky dry run at being an adult.
His relatives, and pretty near the whole darn town–which can't be far from Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon–are tested too. The movie asks you to accept the notion that yahoos in the sticks would be willing to humour the local oddball when he asks them to accept that his girl is real. It veers close to trouble, but the whole thing works, thanks to a note-perfect script from Nancy Oliver, who has written numerous episodes of Six Feet Under , and sensitive direction from Aussie Craig Gillespie, who also made this year's considerably lower-browed Mr. Woodcock .
The standout performer among a simpatico cast is Patricia Clarkson, a GP and psychologist ("You have to be both this far north," she explains) who unlocks our recalcitrant hero's secrets. It's all about abandonment and trust. And getting your fellow humans to act in a manner that isn't so plastic.