Picks and Pans Review: Lars and the Real Girl

updated 10/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/22/2007 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider, Patricia Clarkson | PG-13 |

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When a character doesn't talk much, it helps if the actor playing him has eloquent eyes. They don't come more expressive than Gosling's soulful pools, which he uses to often heartbreaking effect in Lars and the Real Girl, a delightful comedic drama that's easily one of this year's quirkiest and most endearing surprises.

Gosling plays Lars Lindstrom, a 27-year-old, painfully shy introvert who lives in a small Midwestern town in a converted garage next to the house occupied by his older brother (Schneider) and pregnant sister-in-law (Mortimer). Lars rebuffs all social overtures until, one day, he proudly begins introducing Bianca, his new girlfriend. The hitch: Bianca is a life-size doll. But to Lars, she's real. And his family, colleagues and neighbors soon play along because they care for him so much.

Lars is about letting go and growing up, about learning to distinguish between the world as we want it to be and as it is, accepting the latter while understanding the lure of the former. All of which makes the film sound far more dour than it is. Rather, it's funny, touching and wise, and often all three at the same time. Director Craig Gillespie (he also made the recent witless comedy Mr. Woodcock, but I won't hold that against him) and his talented cast beautifully tread that delicate line between cute and pathos, never tipping over to either side. Don't miss this one.

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