A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know the movie's focus on the main character's "relationship" with a very lifelike sex doll may raise questions from young viewers about just exactly what one is -- and what it does. The film also focuses on Lars' emotional disorder, in part explained by his distress over the fact that his mother died during his birth and his father's bad behavior afterward (these events come up in conversation but aren't shown). Expect some slangy references to women's bodies and sexual activities.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
At the start of LARS AND THE REAL GIRL, Lars (Ryan Gosling) looks out on a bleak, wintry landscape. He's isolated and alone, even though he lives adjacent (albeit in a garage) to his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his pregnant sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer).Lars, who works in a generic cubicle at a generic office, can pass for merely socially awkward. But when his co-worker Margo (Kelli Garner) develops a crush on him, he's unable to respond. Instead, he turns to a porn Web site, where he orders a lifelike sex doll. She arrives in a box, and he names her Bianca and introduces her to Gus and Karin as his long-distance girlfriend who's come to visit. With eyebrows raised and glances exchanged, they go along with him, suggesting that they all take Bianca to see Dr. Berman (Patricia Clarkson). Kindly and wise in the way that small-town doctors tend to be in the movies, she advises letting Lars gradually work out whatever trauma he's apparently feeling. "Chances are," she says, "he's been decompensating for some time."
Is it any good?
Lars and the Real Girl is commendable for celebrating the healing powers of quirk. But Craig Gillespie's movie is premised on some tedious and seemingly comforting truisms related to the "unfathomable" mysteries of women and pregnancy. The townsfolk rally round Lars, accepting Bianca as a "real girl," inviting her to parties, volunteering her for community service, bringing her to the hospital to visit with sick kids, etc. Bianca, for all her blankness, is a vehicle for Lars' reintegration into the community. While it's disheartening that she must follow a typical plot route in order to serve that function, the film features an appealing performance by Gosling.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether the movie seems at all realistic -- and, for that matter, whether it's intended to. Does the doctor do the right thing in letting Lars believe in Bianca's existence? Do you think it's believable that the townspeople play along? What do you think the movie's overall message is?
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