I know what you’re thinking…well, I know what I’m thinking. “A review of a movie involving a sex doll? In the Rabbit Room??” But we are all safe because, well…suffice it to say, I recommended this film to my mom. My mom. I knew I was going to like it, because hey, his name is Lars Lindstrom and he wears fair isle sweaters — what’s not for a good Swedish girl to like? What I didn’t know was how the film’s quiet, stealthy tenderness would move me, or how Ryan Gosling’s nervous facial tics would immediately endear me to his character, or how sweetly this strange story would unfold and lay itself bare.
Disclaimer: I’m afraid to write this review. Why? Because I know, I know, I KNOW, like a mama bear knows her bear cub, like a pianist knows middle C, like a Canadian citizen knows the national anthem, that I will inevitably leave out scores of reasons why I loved it so. I’m still stepping out in faith and trusting that you will fill in the blanks and show me mercy if you do decide to see it. Okay, I feel better now.
Lars lives in the cold, whitewashed North in the garage apartment of his parents’ home which now belongs to his brother, Gus (Paul Schneider) and his pregnant wife, Karin (Emily Mortimer). He is painfully shy and socially awkward. He is usually found clinging to a grey blanket his mother crocheted for him when she was expecting him. His mustachioed, apprehensive smile is clouded with sadness. The family are worried about him — concerned that he’s slipping further from reality every day, only confirmed by the fact that he orders a, um….doll….named Bianca and introduces her as his girlfriend. (This is where I’ll go ahead and tell you that it never seems to occur to Lars to make use of the doll for her original purpose. You can breathe now.) Bianca is wheelchair-bound, she conveniently lost her luggage, she ‘doesn’t speak much English’ because she is ‘from the Tropics.’ He explains that, since they are both God-fearing young folks, he would like for her to sleep in the main house’s Pink Room, which belonged to his late mother. When Bianca is taken in to see Doctor Dagmar (played graciously by the lovely Patricia Clarkson), Lars’ brother and sister-in-law are basically told that, to be most helpful, they must go along with his delusion. Their conflict is at once excruciating and hilarious.
The townspeople rally (albeit reluctantly for a handful of them) and offer a heart-warming display of support for this unusual relationship with understanding, emotion, and true class. (Oh friends, you MUST see this movie!!….aaaahhhhhh!!!!!….it’s so gooood!!! moving on….) In a few of my favorite vignettes, most lovely and memorable, Lars takes Bianca to the woods and shows her his childhood tree fort, sings Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E” to her in a funny tremolo, smirks as he cuts her meat for her at the dinner table and playfully eats from her plate, and reads poetry to her.
Bianca, along with everyone who takes good care to include her in the community, ends up healing something in Lars, and the film closes with promise and hope — perhaps dim and slow in coming, but still shining. I will spare you any more of my sub-par summations, for I fear they are shooting off in all possible directions like fireworks gone bad. I will, however, leave you with these words which are marks of what this film portrays: Poignant. Warm. Sad. Sweet. Offbeat. Hilarious. Redemptive. Beauty-filled.