'Lars' Quirks Fail to Enchant
Note that "most." I don't believe a single thing Ryan Gosling's doing in the leading role, which is borderline unplayable to begin with. He plays Lars, a sweet, pathologically shy man who lives in the converted garage behind the small-town family home. (The setting is somewhere in the Midwest, possibly Minnesota, given all the Lindstroms and Dagmars.) His brother Gus (Paul Scheider) and sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer) look after him. He is a holy fool who never recovered from his mother's death in childbirth. The young man orders a sex doll in the mail, not for sex, but for simple companionship. At the urging of the family physician (Patricia Clarkson) Lars' family treats the doll, "Bianca," like the real girl Lars pretends she is. The whole town plays along, in fact, and everyone's transformed for the better, and you'll pardon me if I feeling like urping just a tiny bit at screenwriter Nancy Oliver's blend of pathos and heartland condescension.
Gosling grins and mugs and strains and none of it feels real, even bittersweet-comic-fable real. Everyone else in director Craig Gillespie's ensemble, including a winning Kelli Garner as Lars' pining co-worker, does feel real, which is saying something.
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