Lars, the Real Girl, and the Real Church

by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

So while we’re on the topic of movies, I’d like to recommend one that Dan and I recently discovered, called Lars and the Real Girl. It’s a quirky dramedy about a delusional guy named Lars (played by Ryan Gosling) and his relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet.

Yes, it sounds dirty...but it’s actually one of the most innocent, sweet movies I’ve ever seen.  It beautifully portrays the purpose and power of community, as Lars’ friends and family rally around him and Bianca (the doll) until Lars' delusion has served its purpose, leaving everyone changed for the better. I also love the dynamic between Lars’ brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and his wife Karin (Emily Mortimer).  My favorite scene between the two of them is when they are talking with the doctor about Lars’ condition. Gus wants to know how to fix it, while Karin tries to understand the cause. It’s a funny picture of the classic differences between men and women.

The movie is sympathetically written, and I really like how it portrays Lars’ church. After the doctor tells Gus and Karin that it is best if they just play along and pretend that Bianca is real, they go to Lars’ church to ask for help and support. In a meeting with the pastor and members of the congregation, they explain the situation. At first, some members express reservations. One guy says, “We don’t want anything to do with her, (referring to the doll.) She’s a golden calf.” Another says it’s okay as long as she doesn’t come to church. They go back and forth until one feisty member reminds the group that nearly every family in the church struggles with some kind of dysfunction, that “these things happen...what’s the big deal?”

“Well, he’s not brining her to church,” one member insists, looking at the reverend.

The reverend responds, “Well, the question is, as always, what would Jesus do?”

The members exchange knowing glances, and the next scene cuts to Gus, Karin, Lars, and Bianca together in church...drawing a few stares, of course.

The congregation ends up playing an integral role in the story as it unfolds. They are unfailingly supportive. In one of the opening scenes of the movie, before the plot really begins, the reverend is preaching a sermon in which he says, “We need never ask ‘Lord, what should I do?’ The Lord has told us what to do. Love one another. Love is God in action.”

I like that the reverend and his congregation actually follow through with this teaching. It was nice to see a church portrayed sympathetically, doing what it is meant to do—absorbing dysfunction without judgment, accepting those who would not normally be accepted (like a delusional loner and his sex doll), seeing people through hard times, and loving unconditionally.

Hollywood is rarely this generous...(perhaps because the Church provides little inspiration) “Lars in the Real Girl” is in this way—and in many ways—special.

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