Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Lars and the Real Girl
Imagine you’re at an actor’s workshop, like the one I used to attend in Minneapolis when I lived there (link). The group will set up dramatic situations, to improvise. Screenwriting classes do this, too.
So imagine a married couple with an expectant mother (the Lindstroms, played by Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer) has encouraged the shy and possibly almost autistic husband’s younger brother to come live with them because he spends so time alone, and the brother (Lars, played by a very restrained and dressed-in-layers Ryan Gossling) brings a new girl friend he met on the Internet (please not a Myspace friend) – the only trouble is that the girl is a mannequin. She is an imaginary companion.
Now go on, and wonder what you can do with this. The doll, Bianca, gradually becomes real to the household and to the townspeople. Eventually, Lars will have to outgrow her and be able to have a real girl friend. But how much can one do with this?
The film is "Lars and the Real Girl," directed by Craig Gillespie, written by Nancy Oliver, from Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, production company for a much larger film, “The Kite Runner”, from Dreamworks (reviewed Dec. 15), this film distributed by MGM (yes, our favorite trademark cat). It does seem a bit like an exercise; it could easily have been a stage play, and it seems minimalist.
There’s more of this. Lars has a job as a computer programmer, and some of his office mates (one of them played by Maxwell McCabe-Lokos) play similar tricks on each other, and have their little fetish objects in their cubicles. The film offers a sympathetic Canadian health system GP (Patricia Clarkson) playing psychiatrist (although with the family name, you think the film happens in Minnesota), an ambulance ride for a doll (with single payer you can get away with that) and even a funeral. All to give up a fantasy.
Nevertheless, it’s possible to extrapolate from this, for me especially, beyond the fact that as a boy I had an imaginary companion (I called him Back and worried about the day I would have to give him up). Sometimes media characters seem as real as people, especially the role models. Think of some of our most appealing characters: Clark Kent, Sam Winchester, Ephram Brown, Justin Taylor, Jake Foley, even soap opera’s Nick Fallon. (I’m afraid that right now too many of the females, real and imagined, have been bad role models.) Sometimes “they” seem like real people.