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The Scrambler
Lars and the Real Girl
a review by Heather Craig
I know what you’re thinking (and by the way shame on you) but it’s what everyone thinks when
they first hear about the movie
Lars and the Real Girl.  When I told a friend of mine what I was
going to watch that evening, he was so horrified that I’m not sure my protestations completely
saved my suddenly marred reputation. I suppose it is understandable when some plot summaries
Lars down to “A grown man has a girlfriend who is a sex doll.” Such a summary, while true in
and of itself, doesn’t reflect what a sweet little gem this movie truly is.

Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is a painfully, pathetically shy 27-year old who is so crippled in his
social interactions that he is excruciatingly uncomfortable just to leave sitting alone in his silent
garage apartment  (no TV, no radio) to have dinner with his impatient brother, Gus (Paul
Schneider) and his concerned, pregnant sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer). Lars holds down a
job and attends church weekly. He has no other life we can see, and what we do see is filled with
long silences, because Lars simply doesn’t speak if he is uncomfortable or isn’t sure what to say.
He has no sense of courteous platitudes. Still, everyone likes Lars and no one seems to consider his
silences rude.

When his porn-loving cubicle mate Kurt (Maxwell McCabe-Lokos) shows Lars where he can order
himself a woman on the internet, Lars misunderstands.  Lars orders himself a “girlfriend” and
truly believes that she is an actual person. Ryan Gosling imbues Lars with such a degree of
innocence and dignity that we believe that Lars doesn’t have sex with Bianca, as he calls her.
Instead, for Lars Bianca is a way in to the society in which he has always been so very

Karin convinces Lars that Bianca, newly arrived from South America, should have a check-up and
so Lars is himself examined by Dr. Dagmar (the ever-wonderful Patricia Clarkson) without ever
being aware of it. Lars is functioning and is no threat to anyone. Therefore Dr. Dagmar advises Gus
and Karin to play along with Lars’ delusion in the hopes that eventually, he won’t need it any
more. Gus’ initial refusal to do this and fear of ridicule versus Karin’s complete embracing of
anything to help Lars encapsulates these 2 well-drawn characters.

Karin and Gus approach the community about playing along with the Bianca delusion as well, and
the evolution of the community response is the heart of the movie. While some do assume that
Lars and Bianca’s “relationship” is kinky, most see her for what she is for Lars: a desperate
attempt to connect with the world.

without devolving into farce. Ryan Gosling, also a Golden Globe nominee, makes what could have
without devolving into farce. Ryan Gosling, also a Golden Globe nominee, makes what could have
been a truly pathetic character into a person you like and root for. He gives Lars a deeply
controlled frustration at being unable to express himself, yet  without ever sliding into self hatred.
Emily Mortimer is particularly good when Karin finally blows up at Lars when he declares that no
one cares, and Paul Schneider shines as Gus when he is overcome with guilt over what his little
brother has become.
brother has become.

Lars and the Real Girl is quiet in its comedy, without slapstick, and I’m sure many people will
have trouble buying into the sheer number of people who end up going along with Lars’ delusion
for his sake.  Personally I found that part of the movie delightful. If the film sounds good to you, I
heartily suggest that you rent it for yourself. Just be careful how you describe the plot to others.
*Heather Craig lives in Davis, California.
Lars and the Real Girl movie poster