Lars Never Promised You a Rose Garden

watching paint peelMental illness in movies is usually just a metaphor. In the movies, people tend to recover. It’s uplifting.

Lars and the Real Girl is about this troubled guy who introduces a blow-up doll as his girlfriend. But it’s not what you think it is at all. It’s not crude. It’s heartfelt. And it reaches for big ideas, like what is love? how do you know when you’re grown up? what is community for?

And in the end you think that maybe he’s getting better. And maybe he is. But we’ll probably never know what happened on the next day…

I knew a guy like Lars once. But his mom didn’t die when he was born. He found her on the floor of the bathroom when he was six. ┬áLater on, he had family, a wife and a little girl. But the little girl got sick. Everything tumbled out of control. And it was all just a figment of his imagination. A way for him to cope with what he thought life was. Just like Lars and his girlfriend.

It’s a little bit like a comedy. Things go wacky out of control, then get reined in with a procession. But really it’s just an upbeat drama. Ryan Gosling often gets on my nerves, but he’s spot-on here. His blinking is a wonder to behold.

If you need a double-feature, you could try Kathleen Quinlan’s I Never Promised You a Rose Garden. It’s your standard Hollywood mental illness flick. It’s based on a true life book, an autobiography. The main difference between the movie and the book, as I recall, is that in the book you actually understand why she never wants to leave her delusional world, no matter how bad it gets. She’s more alive there than in the real world. And though you know she gets better (after all, she wrote the autobiography) you also realize that she never recovers.

For a triple feature, try David and Lisa, an even earlier film. It stars the guy who would go on to be metamorphosed along with HAL9000 in the year 2001.


About Lyle Verbilion

I'm just wanderin' around lookin' at things. Wow.
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