Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Girl Power: Two Women Redefine the Role of Outcast Companions: One Fat and One Fake

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Girl Power: Two Women Redefine the Role of Outcast Companions: One Fat and One Fake

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

EARLY ON IN Lars and the Real Girl, the emotionally stunted Lars (Ryan Gosling) tells his brother and sister-in-law that he's planning to bring a date over for dinner. The news sends Gus and Karin into an excited frenzy--after all, Lars has been single for so long that speculation about his sexuality has turned into a sport for their small town. However, when Lars introduces his family members to Bianca, a life-size sex doll that Lars is determined to tote around like a real person, they start to freak out. "What will people think?" asks Gus. Then comes Karin's reply: "We can't worry about that."

That's the moment that Lars and the Real Girl turns into a most unlikely movie: a coming-out allegory for the PFLAG crowd. Lars himself is something of a mentally handicapped enigma, so writer Nancy Oliver (Six Feet Under) spends more time chronicling the effect that Lars's unexpected relationship has on his family, coworkers, and fellow townspeople. Some laugh at Lars behind his back--especially when he dares to bring Bianca to a coworker's party--but most people are willing to play along. He may be in a relationship they don't quite understand, but he's still their Lars.

In its own way, then, Lars and the Real Girl functions as a modern-day Harvey, the 1950 classic in which Jimmy Stewart presents an invisible six-foot rabbit as his close companion. Changing mores may have allowed that big bunny to be recast as an O-faced sex doll, but director Craig Gillespie still aims for a Capra-esque tone, aided by delicate performances from Gosling, Emily Mortimer as his worried sister-in-law, and Six Feet Under alum Patricia Clarkson as Lars's soothing therapist. The premise sounds like Rick Santorum's worst nightmare (a world in which gay marriage could open the floodgates for "I now pronounce you man and doll") but only because it dares to illustrate the concept that is anathema to social conservatives: tolerance.

It's a concept equally foreign to the characters of Fat Girls, where high school outsiders Rodney and Sabrina are treated with such contempt by their Texas small-town peers that they greet every situation with preemptive, deep-rooted hostility. Even though Sabrina is the only one of the pair who could be called full-figured, to queer Rodney, they're both "fat girls" under the skin. …

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