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Well, That’s a Damn Shame

By Brian Prisco | Film | April 27, 2009 |

By Brian Prisco | Film | April 27, 2009 |

Imagine, if you will, I told you there existed a film, touted as a quirky romantic comedy (as a writer of such and defender of Juno, this falls assuredly within my wheelhouse) about a young mattress salesman who falls in love with a fussy industrialist’s daughter while he attempts to adopt a Chinese baby. The couple consists of Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel, which right there pretty much guarantees not just a fountainhead of indie cred, but within reason, a pretty adorably awkward pairing. Not to be outdone, I will fill the rest of my cast with John Goodman, in a relatively Coenesque turn as a Capotean businessman; Ed Asner in the throes of his benevolently warm insanity (he’s even more delightfully batshittier than as owner of the Beers or Mermaidman’s voice); Clarke Peters (Lester Freeman from “The Wire”) as a smooth-as-silk Zen mattress salesman; Zach Galifianakis as a crazy homeless man intent on brutally mauling Paul Dano for no apparent reason; and — oh why the fuck not — let’s throw in Sparky fucking Polastri as a swinging dick brother. Surely, this must be the fucking bee’s knees?

You see where I’m going with this, right?

Gigantic was akin to following a dog who swallowed your wedding ring with a baggie. Individual poops would fall out from this dreadful sphincter of a film, and both you and the dog would sort of resignedly stare at the coiled pile of cinema, then trudge onward, waiting until the next nugget potentially fell out. I wish I could tell you the plot, but essentially the movie is about Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano) getting a Chinese baby. But what about the burgeoning love interest between — ah, ah, no. He is getting a Chinese baby. What about the homeless guy (Zach Galifianakis), who arbitrarily and viciously mauls him — shh! Brian wants a baby. Hey, how about John Goodman the fath— no, sir. The only baby’s that baby is baby. Baby!

If I really wanted to screw on my film studies beanie and give it a whirl, I could come up with stirring metaphors about how all families are unhappy, screwed up families in some way, or that people lost adrift in themselves can often find sanctuary in grounding themselves in others, or that love doesn’t always have to be clean. But if the director, Matt Aselton (who penned the script with Adam Nagata) isn’t going to bother developing any moments, then why the fuck should I? The entire film felt like someone adapted it from a Facebook page. You’re a fan of Fight Club, skinny-dipping, The Pixies, China, bumfights, The Coen Brothers, and Elf also? Me too, let’s accept the friend request and never speak to one another again except in terse pointless snippets.

The nicest thing I can say about the film is that it isn’t bad so much as it’s boring. At least Aselton avoids mainstream cliches. Brian isn’t trying to fake a wacky relationship or marriage to obtain custody of a baby. Happy Lolly (Zooey Deschanel) doesn’t need to find a beau so she can inherit her father’s ostensible millions or to afford the name change she so desperately needs. It’s a very quiet quirky love story where all the quirk seems stapled on like posters in a dorm room. The mattress store is high end, located in a warehouse loft and filled with $17K Swedish top-of-the-line bedding. Brian and Happy consummate their relationship in the backseat of cars during holistic chiropractic sessions and at poolside while their friend trains rats upstairs. Even the nature of the homeless beatings is suspect and bizarrely dark. By the film’s end, I didn’t want Brian to even have a child, or to be with anyone. Nothing is explained, and for once it damn well needed an explanation.

I felt bad for everyone involved. It was written as if the director just assembled his cast and said “Everyone made up a character? Awesome, now action!” It’s like a hipster version of improv dramedy. I adore Zooey Deschanel, to the point she may very well be my celluloid crush, but I found her dreadful and repugnant in this film. The girl does her first nude scene, and I just wanted to stop the film, put her clothing back on her, and put her back in All the Real Girls. Paul Dano walks through every scene like Daniel Day Lewis has just beaten him with a jai alai cradle before they called action. Ed Asner has that wonderful elderly attitude of being too old to worry about his future, so he just sort of crazy grampas his way through every scene. I doubt he was on script, but he’s fucking Ed Asner, so you will not question, you will just adhere. And John Goodman seemed like he was trying to audition for a dinner theater rendition of Capote. Goodman’s an amazing actor, and he’s the only one trying, but it’s in a wickedly awful direction.

It’s a disappointing film, destined to be one that gets recommended ad nauseum by Netflix as a “You’ll probably love…” By all accounts this should have been a perfect film, and I’d really like to blame Aselton, but really, the dude’s going to work in a Blockbuster after this, so at least he’ll get to recommend it to stoners. Now, go put on a robe, Zooey Deschanel!

Brian Prisco lives in a pina down by the mer-port of Burbank, by way of the cheesesteak-laden arteries of Philadelphia. Any and all grumblings can be directed to priscogospel at hotmail dot com.

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