Aspie Movie Review: Lars and the Real Girl


Sometimes I get so lonely I forget what day it is, and how to spell my name. ~from “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007)

Every once in a while I watch a movie that hits me right in the stomach and knocks the existential air right out of me. I’d seen the synopsis of 2007’s Lars and the Real Girl and never got around to watching it. How could a movie about a grown man lugging around a sex doll be watchable at all, much less interesting or poignant? Of course, one of my other all-time favorites, the immortal Harvey, has an equally ludicrous premise…a grown man with a 6-foot invisible rabbit only he can see…and it’s one of the great films of any era.So, let me head back to Lars…and why I laughed and cried more than I had in months.

As an Aspie, I find the best kinds of movies about Aspies are the one in which the A-word is not even mentioned, not even hinted at. If gays and lesbians have the legendary “gaydar” by which they can intuit someone’s sexual preference, I have, if you will, “A-dar.” I can just sort of tell when someone is a fellow Aspie. The movies I have watched with disclosed Aspie characters, such as Adam or Mozart and the Whale, for example? They’re good, just not that good. If I’m going to watch a movie about AS, I want it to be cloaked in an aura of inscrutability with a side of dry humor.

To me, there’s no doubt that Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) is an Aspie. He’s introverted yet highly sensitive, wears the same basic outfit over and over again, lives contentedly in his brother’s garage apartment, and doesn’t seem able to socially connect, much less interact. The kicker was a scene in which he describes incidental contact with strangers as a kind of burning. Nevertheless, he’s a genuinely sweet guy who wants to be loved, and he’s able to drive and hold a job. Nothing seemingly wrong with him other than a profound loneliness, reflected by the stark Wisconsin winter cinematography.

We plan on naming our first child "Harvey"

Enter “Bianca,” who is pretty, a snappy dresser, and from an exotic foreign country. Trouble is, she’s also made of plastic. Bianca is a “Real Doll,” an anatomically-correct sex doll imported from who knows where. She’s also Lars’ “dream girl,” and, like James Stewart’s dipsomaniac conversations with a Pooka in Harvey, he engages in “meaningful dialogue” with her, much to his brother and sister-in-law’s chagrin. What starts off as an improbable romance becomes gets even more tangled with the addition of a sympathetic psychologist (Patricia Clarkson) and an attractive co-worker (Kelli Garner), not to mention the ongoing gossip mill in the close-knit community.

With these types of films, it’s easy to stray into either plausible deniability or outright silliness and sentimentality. Thankfully Lars does neither. It’s played entirely straight by all sides and it just works somehow. Gosling’s strong lead performance is at the core of the film…honest to God, I thought he’d wind up being a hopeless pervert, but he never even comes close. In fact, I can hardly think of another film with sexuality as its subject that never really talks about sex. For Lars, Bianca is a kind of grown-up version of a favorite stuffed animal or action figure. The ultimate stim, as it were. He’s surprisingly gentle and tender around his new “girlfriend” to the point of wanting to sleep in a separate room. In fact, the film’s PG-13 rating is a mystery to me, as the only sexual reference at all is a woman looking up Bianca’s skirt to check her “authentic” female parts. Not very sexy at all.

Is it just me, or does he look like Wikus van de Merwe?

I found, at various points during the film, that I was either laughing (Lars bringing Bianca over to his brother’s home for the first time), crying (a group date gone awry), and stopping to think (Lars’ interactions with his psychologist in her office.) Those are the best ones for me; the ones that can’t adequately be called comedies or dramas, because they have so much of each. Life itself is like that. With few exceptions, who would say her/his life is only a comedy or a drama?

At the heart of the film (and within the title) is the word real. If we think back to classics like Pinocchio or The Velveteen Rabbit, what does it really mean to be real? Lars is real simply because he *is*. He has that wonderfully unpretentious Aspie vibe…you know, the one that basically says, “Not only do I not care what you think of my choices, I don’t understand your motivations in caring anyhow.” These are the people whom we all know at least one of, the ones who will wear a gaudy sombrero in public or skip down the street or walk their invisible dogs, and don’t even care. They are the most real of any of us, and the most rare.

Bianca doesn’t become “real” with the touch of a Blue Fairy’s wand or the incantation of some spell. She becomes real because she provides a chance for Lars to come out of his shell at last and be his authentic self. And in the process, she actually teaches him how to love unconditionally. She also teaches the gossipy townfolk, not to mention Lars’ brother and sister-in-law, a thing or two about authenticity. Only a great screenplay and an earnest cast could manage to do that with a story about a plastic sex toy.

I’ll not spoil the ending for those of you who may want to watch. From an Aspie’s perspective, I’ll only say that it might serve as a touchstone for NTs with Aspie friends or relatives in their lives. Don’t try and force these tender creatures out of their shells too fast. Remember that if you pull a bud off a tree before it is ready to bloom, it will die. Aspies (who often exhibit Lars’ goofy manchild tics and quirks) are slow to mature, but when they do, it can be a beautiful and miraculous thing. Most of all, let them be who they are within reason. I’ve found that the vast majority of Aspies are not perverts or sociopaths or crazed mass murderers. Quite the opposite. Most of us are sweet, almost childlike souls who only ask that we be allowed to have our creature comforts and stims without any outside interference. In short, let us be real.

If carrying around a doll, or walking an invisible dog, will help us fulfill our respective destinies, I say, “what the hell.” Let others talk all they want. Chances are we won’t mind, or even notice, anyway.

And for the record? I’d date someone like Lars in a heartbeat, provided Bianca was already out of the picture. I just don’t know if I could make myself carry around a life-size replica of H.M. Murdock, regardless of how much I thought it might make me grow personally.

To my readers: Thanks for your continued support of P&Q throughout Autism Awareness Month. One more week to go, so I’m going to try and gallop to the finish. Speaking of which, tomorrow’s post will be about human-animal bonds…

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on April 23, 2011.

5 Responses to “Aspie Movie Review: Lars and the Real Girl”

  1. […] Aspie Movie Review: Lars as great as a Real Girl « Prawn And Quartered […]

  2. Please read my elaborate review of Lars and the Real Girl on my site. I would like to discuss this subject further.

  3. […] Lars and the Real Girl made me cry but i'm not going to describe it because that movie's so awesome I don't want to give the spoiler. Lars is clearly aspie btw. Aspie Movie Review: Lars and the Real Girl | Prawn And Quartered […]

  4. […] as: Anatomically correct. i meant atomically as in atoms. Flashes of Lars & the Real Girl…)Aspie Movie Review: Lars and the Real Girl | Prawn And Quartered […]

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