April 6, 2004

Perplexingly Horrible

Sunday evening, Cinecultist let curiosity get the best of us and attended as screening of Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl, as we'd promised on Friday. We've long been a fan of Smith's work; even when we haven't loved the entire film he's made CC appreciates his point of view and deft turn of phrase. Which left us wondering how the hell did our Kevin end up making this illogical, emotionally discordant and at times, just plain creepy picture.

Ben Affleck, an actor Smith calls his "proxy, a way better looking proxy," stars as Ollie, a widowed Manhattan publicist who gives up his glamorous life to raise his daughter in New Jersey. Major problem straight off though, is that Affleck has zero credibility as a father and less than zero father/daughter chemistry with the precocious Raquel Castro who plays Gertie. He's more like a strange uncle dropping in for a weekend to inappropriately flirt with the seven year old, than a man who's raised this baby on his own from birth. What's up with the scene where Ollie takes Gertie to Manhattan for the day, which ends in a handsome cab ride in Central Park and says he's only going on dates with her, not the pretty lady from the video store? It gave CC the icks.

At least this element of the plot sort of made sense -- Jersey Girl is a romance between a father and his daughter -- as opposed to practically every other continuity detail of the film. Smith appears to want us to suspend our disbelief for his narrative, an incredibly vast task, but the holes even troubled David Ansen in the following interview in Newsweek.

Ansen: He has to run because the road in town is blocked, and I couldn't help but ask myself, Well, how did all those other people get to the show? They weren't running! It's picky, I know. Smith: David, this is the part of your job that would be the most irritating to me if I were a critic. Sometimes you just have to kick back and suspend disbelief and not ask, How did they all get there? Ansen: But as you know, you're more inclined to do that when a movie is working for you. Smith: That's true. Ansen: And when you become disengaged from the movie, you start to see things. Smith: You start to take it apart. Look, at the end of the day I'm not an inventive or very creative filmmaker....I cannot reinvent the wheel. All I can do is add a spoke to an already existing wheel, and hopefully it's my spoke and it kind of stands out a little bit.

Our final beef with the film came from his use of Liv Tyler's character, the pretty video store lady/romantic interest Mya. Ollie and Mya meet cute when he tries to rent porn from her store and she puts him on the spot by asking to interview him for her graduate school paper on family men who watch adult videos. This leads to a lunchtime diner scene where the two have an extended dialogue about their masturbation frequency. CC thinks that Smith must encounter these lovely, quirky independent women in real life and just write down their dialogues verbatim to insert them in his scripts. Which is fine, except that he doesn't understand their motivation -- why would this gorgeous young girl talk masturbation in diner -- and thus gives the actors no context to act these lines from. Screwball for its own sake really leads to nothing concrete and the promise of Mya's character falls flat.

Posted by karen at April 6, 2004 8:30 AM