Lars and the Real Girl

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Lars and the Real Girl
Lars real girl.jpg
Original poster
Directed by Craig Gillespie
Produced by Sarah Aubrey
John Cameron
Sidney Kimmel
Written by Nancy Oliver
Starring Ryan Gosling
Emily Mortimer
Paul Schneider
Kelli Garner
Patricia Clarkson
Music by David Torn
Cinematography Adam Kimmel
Edited by Tatiana S. Riegel
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • October 12, 2007 (2007-10-12) (limited)
  • November 2, 2007 (2007-11-02)
Running time
106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $12 million[1]
Box office $11.3 million[1]

Lars and the Real Girl is a 2007 American-Canadian comedy-drama film written by Nancy Oliver and directed by Craig Gillespie. It stars Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner and Patricia Clarkson. The film follows Lars (Gosling), a sweet but socially inept young man who develops a romantic yet platonic relationship with an anatomically correct sex doll, a "RealDoll" named Bianca.

Though a commercial failure, Lars and the Real Girl was critically acclaimed, receiving an Academy Award nomination for "Best Writing (Original Screenplay)", while Gosling received a Golden Globe Award nomination for "Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy" and a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for "Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role".


In a small Wisconsin town, Lars Lindstrom (Gosling) lives in the converted garage behind the house he and his brother Gus (Schneider) inherited from their late father. Karin (Mortimer) is Lars's pregnant sister-in-law. Her persistent attempts to lure him into the house for a family meal are usually rebuffed, and on the rare occasions he accepts, their conversation is stilted and he seems eager to leave as soon as he can. The young man avoids social contact, finding it difficult to interact with or relate to his family, co-workers or fellow parishioners in the church he regularly attends. Margo (Garner), Lars' co-worker, is clearly interested in him, but Lars avoids anything more than brief encounters with her.

One day Lars happily announces to Gus and Karin he has a visitor he met via the Internet, a wheelchair-mobile missionary of Brazilian and Danish descent named Bianca. The two are startled to discover Bianca is, in fact, a lifelike doll Lars ordered from an adult website. Concerned about his mental health, they convince Lars to take Bianca to Dagmar (Clarkson), the family doctor who is also a psychologist. Dagmar diagnoses Bianca with low blood pressure and advises Lars to bring her in for weekly treatments. The doctor's actual intention is to analyze Lars and get to the root of his behavior. She explains to Gus and Karin that this delusion is merely a symptom or manifestation of an underlying problem that needs to be addressed. She urges them to assist with Lars's therapy by treating Bianca as if she were a real woman.

It is discovered during the course of the film that Lars's mother died during his birth, causing his father to change dramatically. These issues pushed Gus to leave home as soon as possible, leaving Lars to deal with a distant, heartbroken father alone. This gave Lars an almost debilitating fear of having children, which causes him to refuse any kind of intimacy as well.

As time passes, Lars begins to introduce Bianca as his girlfriend to his co-workers and various townspeople. Due to their care and concern for Lars, everyone treats Bianca as a real person. Lars soon finds himself interacting more with people. During this time, Margo has begun to date another co-worker, which silently bothers Lars.

Lars has a conversation with his brother during which he asks when he knew he had become a man and what being a man means. His brother's explanation seems to reach Lars and his dependence on Bianca immediately seems to shift.

When a co-worker with whom Margo has been playing pranks goes a bit too far, Lars comforts her. During the ensuing conversation, Margo reveals she has broken up with her boyfriend. She invites Lars to go bowling, which he initially declines before reconsidering. The two spend a pleasant evening together along with some other townsfolk. Lars is quick to remind Margo he could never cheat on Bianca. Although obviously disappointed, Margo replies that the thought never crossed her mind. As they part, Lars takes his glove off to shake Margo's hand.

One morning soon after, Lars announces that Bianca is unresponsive, and she is rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Once there, he tells his family the prognosis is not good and that Bianca would like to be brought home. The news spreads through town, and everyone whose life has been touched by Bianca sends flowers or sits with Lars at the Lindstrom home. Gus and Karin ask Dagmar why this is happening, and she reveals that it reflects a significant shift within Lars's mind. They suggest that Lars and Bianca join them for a visit to the lake. While the couple is hiking, Lars gives Bianca a very sad farewell kiss. As Gus and Karin make their way back from the hike, they discover despondent Lars in the lake with a 'dying' Bianca.

Bianca is given a full-fledged funeral that is well-attended by the townspeople. After Bianca is buried in the local cemetery, Lars and Margo linger at the grave site. When Margo states that she should catch up with everyone else, Lars asks her to take a walk with him instead, to which she happily agrees.



In The Real Story of Lars and the Real Girl, a special feature on the DVD release of the film, screenwriter Nancy Oliver reveals the inspiration for her script was an actual website,, which is featured prominently in the film. Oliver had a job that required her to do research on "weird websites" and stumbled upon She wrote the script in 2002.[2]

The film, set in the American state of Wisconsin, was filmed with a US$12 million budget on location in Alton, Elora, King Township, Toronto, Uxbridge, and Whitevale, all of which are located in the Canadian province of Ontario.[3][4] Film credits include Rosalie MacKintosh as "Bianca wrangler" and Karly Bowen as "assistant Bianca wrangler."[5][6]


The film premièred at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2007 before going into limited release in the U.S. on October 12, 2007. It initially opened on seven screens in New York City, New York; and Los Angeles, California, and earned $90,418 on its opening weekend. It later expanded to 321 theaters and remained in release for 147 days, earning $5,972,884 domestically and $5,320,639 in foreign markets for a worldwide box-office total of $11,293,663.[1][7]

The film was featured at the Austin Film Festival, the Heartland Film Festival, the Torino Film Festival, the Glasgow Film Festival, and the Las Palmas de Gran Canaria International Film Festival.[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

The film received positive reviews from critics. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 81% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 134 reviews with the consensus stating "Lars and the Real Girl could've so easily been a one-joke movie. But the talented cast, a great script, and direction never condescends to its character or the audience."[8] On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 70 out of 100, based on 32 reviews.[9]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times observed, "The film wisely never goes for even one moment that could be interpreted as smutty or mocking. There are so many ways [it] could have gone wrong that one of the film's fascinations is how adroitly it sidesteps them. Its weapon is absolute sincerity. It has a kind of purity to it."[10]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle called the film "a gentle comedy, offbeat but never cute, never lewd and never going for shortcut laughs that might diminish character."[11]

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times said, "American self-nostalgia is a dependable racket, and if the filmmakers had pushed into the realm of nervous truth, had given Lars and the town folk sustained shadows, not just cute tics and teary moments, it might have worked. Instead the film is palatable audience bait of average accomplishment that superficially recalls the plain style of Alexander Payne, but without any of the lacerating edges or moral ambiguity."[12]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described it as "the sweetest, most innocent, most completely enjoyable film around," "a film whose daring and delicate blend of apparent irreconcilables will sweep you off your feet if you're not careful. The creators of this film were fiercely determined not to go so much as a millimeter over the line into sentiment, tawdriness or mockery. It's the rare film that is the best possible version of itself, but Lars fits that bill."[13]

Lou Lumenick of the New York Post awarded the film three out of four stars, calling it "an offbeat comedy that plays as if Preston Sturges came back to life and collaborated with the Coen Brothers on an updated version of the Jimmy Stewart film Harvey (1950). He added the script "eschews cheap laughs for character-driven humanist comedy, and is sensitively directed by Craig Gillespie."[14]

Alissa Simon of Variety stated, "Craig Gillespie's sweetly off-kilter film plays like a Coen brothers riff on Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon tales, defying its lurid premise with a gentle comic drama grounded in reality ... what's fresh and charming is the way the characters surrounding the protagonist also grow as they help him through his crisis."[15]

The film has received favorable reviews from Christian faith-based media,[16] and has been recommended as an instructional tool and a means for opening a dialogue on tolerance.[17]

Nominations and awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Lars and the Real Girl". Box Office Mojo. IMDb Inc. Retrieved October 2, 2010. 
  2. ^ Wloszczyna, Susan (October 8, 2007). "'Lars' star Bianca isn't just your average movie actress". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 25, 2014. Retrieved November 15, 2014. 
  3. ^ IMDB "Filming Locations for Lars and the Real Girl"
  4. ^ Goodman, Lee-Anne (2008). "The Real Deal". AOL. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved November 15, 2014. 
  5. ^ IMDB "Crazy Credits for Lars and the Real Girl"
  6. ^ Staff writer (undated). "The Love of His Life Is a Real Doll". The Vancouver Sun. Accessed April 24, 2010.
  7. ^ "". 2008-03-06. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  8. ^ "Rotten". Rotten Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  9. ^ "". Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 19, 2007). "Lars and the Real Girl". Chicago Sun-Times. Accessed April 24, 2010.
  11. ^ LaSalle, Mick (October 19, 2007). "Review: Lars and the Real Girl – A (Platonic) Love Story". San Francisco Chronicle. Accessed April 24, 2010.
  12. ^ Dargis, Manohla (October 12, 2007). "Lars and the Real Girl (2007)". The New York Times. Accessed April 24, 2010.
  13. ^ Turan, Kenneth (October 12, 2007). "Lars and the Real Girl – The Movie Centers a Delightful, Capra-esque Story Around a Most Prurient Prop.". Los Angeles Times. Accessed April 24, 2010.
  14. ^ Lumenick, Lou (October 12, 2007). "Midwestern Love for Dummies". New York Post. Accessed April 24, 2010.
  15. ^ Simon, Alissa (September 11, 2007). "Lars and the Real Girl". Variety. Accessed April 24, 2010.
  16. ^ "Lars and the Real Girl". Christianity Today.
  17. ^ Simmons, Rachel (July 28, 2009). "Teaching Tolerance with Lars and the Real Girl". Accessed April 24, 2010.
  18. ^ "Humanitas Prize Past Winners". Retrieved 2012-04-10. 

External links[edit]