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Ryan Gosling Rocks

Ryangoslingwithlarsposter I'm on a weird-and-wacky-yet-often-wonderful movie bender: in the past week I've watched Once, Martian Child, and now Lars and the Real Girl, starring Ryan Gosling as a touching and touched-in-the-head young man named Lars who lives in his older brother's garage and has an intense, meaningful relationship with a blow-up sex doll ordered off the Internet.

The small town, including older brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his pregnant, kindly wife Karin (the sweet, fragile Emily Mortimer), decides to accept Lars' girlfriend, Bianca, as a real human being, mainly out of the goodness of their hearts but also on the advice of Dr. Dagman (Patricia Clarkson), a shrink who tries to tend to Lars' delusions once a week under the guise of treating Bianca for "low blood pressure." Her conclusion is that he'll give up the ghost, and the doll, when he doesn't need her anymore.

Lars and the Real Girl just proves to me once again how much Ryan Gosling rocks. Who else, really, could lead this movie, playing mostly to an inanimate object, and a rather creepy one no less? Lars is emotionally stunted; his mother died in childbirth and his brother fled the family, leaving little Lars with a wounded father incapable of tending to his youngest son. Lars never really became a man, an adult, and Gosling finds a way to portray him as innocent and grasping rather than juvenile and childish. His twitches and deflections aren't the random feints of a troubled person: on the contrary, Gosling's mannerisms and gestures are infused with honesty and a very real -- and affecting -- desire to forgive his family and ultimately learn to love people. Lars' behaviors and delusions are ridiculous but not silly; you have to take Gosling seriously.

This is his best work since The Believer, as a troubled young Jewish boy turned anti-Semite filled with self-loathing and object hatred, and Half Nelson, as a troubled young high school teacher with a crack habit. Sure, sure: he sent hearts a-fire with The Notebook and showed his cagey, flippant side in Fracture, against Anthony Hopkins no less. But this is the Gosling I like best: raw, temperamental, bedeviling, guileless.

--Anna Bengel   

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