**** out of ****
Amidst an overflow of serious films in the multiplexes, you can find relief in the light-hearted comedy, "Lars and the Real Girl," one of the gems of 2007.
Ryan Gosling stars as the title character Lars Lindstrom, a lovable loser, who is socially inapt. Lars' rare trips out are either to go to church or to his job, where his new co-worker, Margo (Kelli Garner), is attracted to him. He lives in a sparsely furnished garage off of his brother Gus' house. Gus (Paul Schneider) and his wife, Karin (Emily Mortimer), are expecting their first child.
Gus insists to Karin that Lars likes to live alone. Karin, however, is persistent in her attempts to socialize with Lars.
The events change quickly when Lars actually knocks on Gus and Karin's door to have dinner with them saying he has a girlfriend, Bianca. Gus and Karin want to meet her, but are shocked when they find out that Bianca is a custom made life-size doll.
Lars treats Bianca as if she were real. He even gives her a life story -- that she is a Brazilian missionary with nurse training whose parents died at birth, among other various things.
Gus thinks Lars is crazy and Karin also has her doubts. But family doctor/psychiatrist, Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson), says he is fine but delusional, slowly letting out his bottled up feelings. The doctor recommends that they should treat Bianca as if she were real and Lars will eventually stop using her when he has come to terms with his issues. Easier said than done.
The movie progresses as Lars and Bianca step out and the snowy, small town accepts Bianca. She and Lars actually become minor celebrities.
Taking the place of last year's "Little Miss Sunshine," "Lars" is a subtle comedy with laugh-out-loud moments. At times it is a sad film about loneliness and the kindness of others, which is inspiring at the end.
After "The Notebook" and coming off his first Academy Award nomination for "Half Nelson," Ryan Gosling is a smart guy when it comes to films, and this only adds to his near perfect resume. Gosling is phenomenal as Lars. In a role with spare lines, he pours his emotions out on screen.
Indie-film star Emily Mortimer shines on screen. Playing a natural do-gooder, Mortimer is memorable in one of the few tear-jerker scenes towards the end where she confronts Lars.
Patricia Clarkson also stands out. Her character connects with Lars with their mutual loneliness in heart-touching conversations.
This is director Craig Gillespie's first film (his second "Mr. Woodcock" was released in September), and is a marvelous attempt. The same goes for screenwriter Nancy Oliver -- this is her first feature film screenplay.