A guy falls in love with a sex doll bought online. An Adam Sandler movie? Think again. Although watching Lars (Ryan Gosling) cart around Bianca, his wheelchair-bound plastic ''girlfriend,'' elicits chuckles, the tale is actually more of a heartwarming love story, albeit a warped one. ''We never wanted it to be wacky or even a comedy,'' says Gosling, who earned an Oscar nod for last year's Half Nelson. ''I took it as seriously as I did the love story in The Notebook.''
But you'll find no passionate rain-soaked reunions here. Early on, the troubled guy sings a mournful ode to his synthetic lover from atop his childhood tree house. ''He's really mentally unstable,'' says Gillespie, who also directed Mr. Woodcock (out Sept. 14). Still, Gosling doesn't try to explain away the actions of his troubled character: ''His love for Bianca is as real as anyone else's love for another person. He's quite a complicated guy, this Lars.''
The film's true heart lies in Lars' support system, including his brother (Paul Schneider), sister-in-law (Emily Mortimer), psychiatrist (Patricia Clarkson), and doting coworker (Kelli Garner). ''We had discussions like, Do they believe in Bianca? Do they not?'' Gillespie says. Eventually, he decided to have them accept the doll out of devotion to Lars. If only we could all have such understanding friends and family.