Thursday 20 October 2011

I've Been Watching...

...more telly during this week than usual (I usually don't watch TV at all), mostly because I can not use my personal computer these days (the HDD is gone and I may or may not lose some pictures, saved games and other stuff, entirely due to me being lazy about regularly backing it up) to play my favourite computer game, and because I was in between books.

Last night, I happened to come across a movie that had already started; the first 15 minutes or so were over by the time I got there. What I saw was a youngish man sitting next to a life-size, life-like doll (the kind that is sold as sex doll) at the dinner table, and another man and woman (both real, not dolls) sitting opposite. They were eating, and talking, and it quickly transpired from the conversation that the man with the doll was firmly convinced that the doll was a real woman, while the couple (obviously close friends or relatives to him) were, for some as yet unknown to me reason, playing along with him, also acting as if the doll was real.

This bit I found intriguing enough to stay on that channel and watch the whole movie, which was "Lars and the Real Girl" from 2007, starring Ryan Goslin, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Kelli Garner, Patricia Clarkson, many other people and, of course, a "Real Doll" (as they are really called).

I had not known of or heard about this movie before, and so I had no idea what it really was about. Instead, for a long time I was waiting for the doll actually coming to life - do you remember the 80s movie in which a shop mannequin comes alive? Or "Splash", also from the 80s, which features Daryl Hannah as a real mermaid? There were quite a few such fairytale stories in those days, and although they are all more or less silly, they make for an entertaining two hours or so, and so I thought, why not, and kept watching.

Well, in "Lars and the Real Girl", the doll does not come alive. Never. The young man who is convinced she is his living, breathing girlfriend is the only one who sees her like that; to everyone else, she is just a doll. At least to begin with.

Lars is a bit of a loner and has problems with social interactions; at home, at work, and at the church he regularly attends. As the story develops, we learn that these problems stem from an unhappy childhood. Lars has reached a point where nobody can even touch him - literally. It hurts him, he says, as when you've been out in the cold for too long and your frozen limbs slowly warm up again.

Because Lars has become so delusional about "Bianca", and his brother and sister-in-law deeply care about him and worry about his mental health, they agree to atheir doctor's suggestion to play along with it, pretending to welcome Lars' "girlfriend" into the family. Bianca gets to sleep in the guest room; her inability to move on her own is explained by Lars with an illness and very low blood pressure, and she is taken around in a wheel chair all day. Because of her "illness", Lars and Bianca go to see the doctor (played by the wonderful and wonderfully beautiful Patricia Clarkson) regularly, and while Bianca has to "rest" after her "treatment", the doctor talks to Lars, trying to get to the root of the problem.

In their day to day lives, Lars works at an office where a young woman is clearly interested in him. He shies away from her, and yet it bothers him when eventually she has a boyfriend. Lars' brother and sister-in-law are going to have their first child, and their daily and weekly routine quickly incorporates Bianca, as it would if she was a real human being with special needs. She is washed and clothed, "fed", taken out for shopping and to church, and put to bed like a child at night.

The small town community soon adopt her for Lars' sake, who introduces the doll to everyone as his girlfriend. They welcome the couple at church with a bunch of flowers for Bianca, and they even take her out for some volunteer work such as reading to a group of children, or for a haircut at the beauty salon.

Nobody has any idea where it is all going to lead, and, frankly, I found it at times rather too unrealistic how everybody rallies round and joins the pretend play. In all communities, no matter how big or small, there is bound to be someone who won't do what everybody else sees as the decent thing to do, and I would have expected Lars and Bianca to be ridiculed by some people.

Eventually, through all the interactions brought on through Bianca with his neighbours, co-workers and church members, Lars becomes less of a loner and his social interactions less awkward.
How he finds his way back into the real world, where dolls are just dolls and neither can nor should replace human friends, I won't tell you here, because it would mean to spoil it for you, should you decide to watch the movie yourself.

It is a rather sweet story about friendship and love, in the family and out, and worth watching, I think.

The season and the weather are used as dramatic devices. When the story begins, it is winter, with deep snow everywhere, and people all dressed in heavy coats and woolly hats, scarves and gloves. With the unfolding of events, there is a subtle change in the weather, even a day or two of thawing, before frost hits again and it snows once more. However, the film ends with the first fine days of warmer weather and a promise of spring and better times to come. All this is subtly related to what happens with Lars and Bianca and Lars' colleague.

If you happen to come across it somewhere, maybe you'll see what I mean.


  1. What a weird sounding film. I have never heard of it. I think I'd be irritated by everyone playing along too, though. I like a film to have a bit of realism at the heart of it, even if it is total fantasy! still, if I see it anywhere I'll take a look after reading your review, it sounds quite interesting.
    Hope your computer is fixed soon, this sort of thing must be a particular pain if you are keen on gaming.

  2. I have heard of this film but have never seen it! Sometimes some of the kindest, most respectful movies are the unusual ones. Have you ever seen "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything"? Or for that matter, "The Full Monty"? The first movie involved transvestites and the second one, men stripping for money. Both of these movies, to me, had a higher standard of morality than any of the modern movies that I have seen. And both of them are pretty darn funny too!

  3. Jenny, it was weird, but not meant to be fantasy at all. I'll see my boss today and hope he can tell me whether my data could be saved or not.

    Kay, I have heard of both films but not yet seen them. "The Full Monty" reminds me a bit of "All That Brass", which is great and very touching, and not without its fun moments, either.

  4. This could explain why I very rarely watch films! Nevertheless - you've got me wondering about the outcome.

  5. I remember that first movie although I can't remember it's name either. Black and white, I think. I like weird movies. I guess that's not a surprise to anyone.

  6. I heard of this but thought it sounded kind of depressing and the idea of a sex doll kind of grossed me out. I just started watching an Australian movie called "Love Serenade" that I really like. It's a comedy but a dark one and rather sweet, too.

  7. I missed this when it came to our little town theatre. You wrote a great review, which makes me want to see it. I just added it to my Netflix queue. Sorry about your computer.

  8. It all sounds rather to bizarre for my taste. But the life's a bit too bizarre for my taste sometimes as well!

  9. Scriptor, for me, not watching many films means that I usually think about the few I have seen for rather a long time. I sort of ruminate them in my mind.

    Mark, the one I mean wasn't black and white. It was done in the 1980s when very few movies (if any) were done in black and white.

    Sonia, it is not depressing, quite the contrary, and in the whole movie the doll is not treated as a sex doll at all.

    Nan, I now have a new HDD waiting to be built in - and then all the re-installing begins...! It will be interesting to read your review of the movie, if you'll write one.

    GB, it is bizarre, but you are right - real life is a lot more bizarre than anything a script writer could ever make up!

  10. If I'd turned that on half way through, I probably wouldn't have given it the time of day to find out what on earth it was about! So I'm glad you did it for me, as it sounds quite intriguing.

  11. It surely was different from any other movie I've ever seen (not that there were that many, actually).

  12. Liebe Meike,

    Ich habe deinen Blog durch Kay gefunden und bin sehr froh darueber!! Bei dir gibt es ja sehr interessantes zu lesen!

    And - how fun to hear you liked Lars and the Real Girl. We saw that movie a few years ago and thought it was one of the sweetest movies we had seen in a long time. I think I'll have to watch it again!

    Liebe Gruesse aus Savannah, Silke

  13. Liebe Silke, vielen Dank - es freut mich, dass du bei mir interessanten Lesestoff gefunden hast!
    Einen schönen Sonntag in Savannah wünscht dir

  14. I remember reading a review of this movie awhile back and I have to say it seems interesting. I agree with you though - If this happened to someone in my life I think I would crack - it would be hard to keep up the act. Glad to hear it has a happy ending though.


    P.S. I loved Mannequin, such a fun 80's movie.

  15. I have to tell you it does sound INTERESTING . . . and amusing! If I come across it I'll watch it! Thanks for the review!

  16. Elizabeth, that's the 80s movie, "Mannequin"? Thank you! I'll have to look it up.

    Mary, you are welcome. It is amusing in a way, but also quite thought-provoking.

  17. I did see that movie. I love the main actor. It was a weird one, the kind you just keep watching.


  18. Hello Lorraine, exactly - I just couldn't work out on my own what was going to happen, so I watched it to the end. And yes, the main actor was really good, certainly not a very easy role.

  19. Libby, (my nick name for you) I can't believe you didn't tell how the show ends! ARGH LOL maybe I can find it on the internet on HULU or something. I do believe I saw commercials for it years ago when it first came out but didn't see the movie. I am like that...on a day I don't want to go out and about I turn on the tele and try and find a good old movie to watch. :) I do know I get visits, I have some very special friends on the blog...Libby your being one of them, and yes, it would be fun to see your family....I am surprised my son doesn't object to my splashing my grandies faces all over the place...hope your computer problems get solved...have a wonderful weekend!

  20. Linda, it is always good to hear from you! My computer has been up and running again since Monday night, but I have been busy with work and re-installing my Sims3 game. I should get round to posting more this weekend, having several posts already drafted in my head (and I know that, once I sit down to write, they will turn out quite different from my original idea). You too have a wonderful weekend!