First, a disclaimer: a few years back I was researching an article (that was never written) about the topic of 'real girls' - expensive sex dolls that look a lot closer to reality than the inflatable kind, usually purchased by lonely men who form a disturbingly strong attachment to them. And in researching this article, I dug up a lot of facts about the kind of guys who own these dolls - facts that made it all but impossible to believe a second of the supposedly heart-warming tale of decent midwestern guy Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) and his relationship with one of these 'real girls'. Admittedly he's shown as a fairly introverted type who can't handle even the slightest amount of actual human contact, but when he turns up at the home of his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) with Bianca, a 'real doll' he claims is a missionary he met on the internet that's when I started getting the willies. And despite the film's wholesome tone of near fantasy as those around Lars go along with what is either a delusion or an act on his part - he even insists that Bianca 'sleep' in another room until they get to know each other better - it became increasingly difficult to see this film as the light and sweet quasi-comedy it was trying to be. Clearly those involved felt that a movie where a shy, introverted guy uses a sex doll to teach himself how to deal with other people - it's hardly a spoiler to reveal that Lars does eventually fall for an actual living person - should be a sweet and quirky story, and they do pretty much everything right to get that result. But the reality of these 'real girls' is just so creepy and disturbing (lets just say that their owners often break them doing whatever it is they're doing with them) that - for me at least - it just kept getting in the way.
Anthony Morris (this review appeared in Forte #423)