How do you market a wholesome, old-fashioned film about a churchgoer who falls in love with his sex doll? Grass-roots screenings with religious groups, maybe?
That’s one of the novel approaches being taken with the marketing campaign for director Craig Gillespie’s unexpectedly poignant comedy “Lars and the Real Girl,” which opens Friday in Los Angeles and New York.
“Half Nelson” Oscar nominee Ryan Gosling plays Lars, a painfully shy loner who lives in the garage next to his brother and sister-in-law’s house. Crushed by the loss of his parents, he orders a lifelike doll named Bianca over the Web and convinces himself that she’s his girlfriend. The local doctor (Patricia Clarkson) persuades his family, his small town and even his church to help him by going along with the delusion and accept Bianca as a real person.
There’s nothing really prurient in the film, which earned a mild PG-13 rating for “some sex-related content.” Lars and Bianca sleep in separate houses. There’s a discreet scene in which Bianca’s potential in-laws bathe her, but while some silicone is exposed, her anatomical correctness is never shown.
The film’s producer, Sidney Kimmell Entertainment (SKE), plans more than 100 promo screenings by the time the film goes wide on October 26 including, yes, outreach to church leaders.
“We’ve found an enormous response from mainstream Christian groups,” says Bingham Ray, who heads up SKE’s distribution operations. “Some pastors may discuss the film as part of their sermons.”
The trailer doesn’t intentionally misrepresent the film’s tone, but it does feature Bianca in ridiculous situations (holding a baby, sitting in church), making it tough to convey the film’s themes of acceptance, tolerance and kindness. . . .
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