LARS AND THE REAL GIRL D: Craig Gillespie w/ Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer. U.S. 106 min. Sep 10, 9 pm Ryerson; Sep 13, 2:30 pm Scotiabank 1. Rating: NNNN
I puzzled over the curious tone of Lars And The Real Girl for a while. Turn the film 5 degrees to the right and it becomes a humourless movie-of- the-week about a guy who "can't connect." Turn it 5 degrees to the left and it becomes a Farrelly brothers comedy about a guy whose chief relationship is a delusion.
Then I noticed that scenarist Nancy Oliver wrote eight episodes of Six Feet Under, a show that tends to walk exactly that tonal tightrope. Full credit to first-time feature director Gillespie, who holds the tone, and to Ryan Gosling, who's willing not just to play a character you're never sure if you should be laughing at, but for doing it in a haircut and moustache that scream "David Arquette" back when we thought Arquette had a shot at stardom.
This is really a film about the power of magical thinking. It isn't just that Lars thinks his life-size "love doll" is a real person; in a very strange way, the entire town becomes convinced of her humanity, and the film never topples over into whimsy. You start waiting for the townspeople to do something really stupid, and they don't.
This could be the sleeper hit of the festival.