Monday, March 20, 2006

all the real girls (2003)

I watched and enjoyed Walk The Line last week, but I don't really see the point of writing a review of a film which almost everyone who read this will have either read about at length already or seen, so I won't go into it, apart from saying that it was great and one of those rare films which stayed in my thoughts for a days after seeing it, which is always a test of a good film, or book or record for that matter.

It's a test I can't apply, however, to a film I watched as recently as this evening, All The Real Girls, but I'm tempted to write a few words about it because I thought it was a particularly charming and interesting film which deserves a mention. Written by David Gordon Green and Paul Schneider (who directed and starred in the movie, respectively) and released in 2003 (I completely missed it at the time), it's kind of a low-key elegaic Garden State without the more obvious comedy or self-conscious hip-ness. It's a very serious movie, in fact, although not one which isn't regularly very funny - but it's one of the sweetest, slowest films I've seen in a while.

Seemingly filmed in the dawn and dusk hours in an absolutely gorgeous North Carolina, meaning that almost every shot (practically the whole movie is set outdoors) is bathed in beautiful golden light, it concerns a pair of young drifters in a small town who drift together, seeking comfort and redemption, and then drift painfully apart when their expectations differ. Largely informed by improvisation in rehearsals and featuring a pair of remarkable turns from Schneider and Zoey Deschaneal, the film is deliberately vague and unformed, ending not with clear resolution but rather with open-ended pathos and lingering shots of the unchanging landscape.

In places the films is marvellous; the supporting roles (from Patricia Clarkson, Danny McBride, Shea Whigham and Benjamin Mouton) by are all as good examples of character acting as you'll come accross this year, particularly from Whigham, whose unpredictable, charged performance as the childish Tip is a masterclass in wringing feeling from a few thin lines. Gordon Green shoots some lovely snippets of layered conversation, and evinces beautifully the contrast between the so familiar inhabitants of a little-changing town and the excitement of discovering someone new. Despite the appearence of several accomplished actors, Green draws heavily on old film-school colleagues and local residents; this, coupled with the rigorous improv, combines to produce an atmosphere and a shared vocabularly of glances which speaks powerfully of real friendship.

It's by no means a perfect film; the last third is frustrating, for all the director's admirable determination to maintain the steady level of careful realism. Nothing is resolved, nothing is ever resolved, the film whispers, all of which makes for a beautifully stylised and shot parable but not so much for a satisfying film; although the movie unexpectedly ends with a tangential, charming moment of comedy. Despite this, it's tremendously believable and struck through with impeccable dialogue and elegant, serious acting. And the stunning scenery of North Carolina chimes with the story as bewitchingly as David Lynch's Washington did in Twin Peaks. Like Lynch - although the movie doesn't resemble his work in any other way - Gordon Green attempts to capture a whole community rather than just his central protagonists; it's these kooky, largely unexplained diversions which pull focus and give the film its disjointed, undisciplined feel. But that's how life is, you can hear Green saying, and that's where you find the film's humanity.

Really good stuff, all told.


Ben said...

As someone who thought 'Garden State' was a little bit too neat and tidy, I really like the sound of this.

"I don't really see the point of writing a review of a film which almost everyone who read this will have either read about at length already or seen, so I won't go into it" - I do that all the time, and often late on in a film's run when it's most likely been seen by practically everyone, so I do wonder myself whether it's worth it sometimes. But ultimately I see it as a way of keeping my critical faculties sharp (if that doesn't sound too pompous...) and keeping a record of what I've seen. I guess it's all a matter of personal taste - I'm always keen to read the views of others on albums I've heard / books I've read / films I've seen.

Not seen 'Walk The Line' yet, so I for one would have been particularly eager to see what you thought...

Natalia Ulla said...


I will definitely watch it. Do you have it? Can I borrow it? I loved Garden State as you know, and I definitely like the atmosphere of twin Peaks ;)

I like it more when you write about things other than politics, becuase I don;t know politics so to me it's like reading chinese! I have tried to be more knowledgeable about politics but my brain is not compatible! :(


Andrew Wilson said...

Another vote for your thoughts on Walk The Line here!

Laura said...

I really enjoyed Walk the Line too, i got quite emotional in some bits! I read somewhere though that his first wife was portayed inaccurately and from seeing the film I can see why her family might get upset. Imagine the stress she was under! Anyway the film was good.. now to a more important topic: Wigwam! Could Alex have sunk to a new low.. lower than Fat Les even?!

jonathan said...

Hello Laura! The Wigwam song is just, oh, I dunno how to describe it. All I can think is that, in keeping with Fat Les, it's a big post modern joke - certainly you couldn't have a frothier, less insightful song, but it's a shame it has to have such a rubbish tune and dodgy riff. It's horrible. It's a testament to how much music critics (a) like Alex James and (b) still haven't got over their adolescent lust for Betty Boo, that they've had such kind write-ups. What I find weird is that, although Alex doesn't write songs for Blur, his basslines, particularly in recent years, have been really arresting and tuneful. But it seems he can't translate that to his own stuff. But yeah, god, it's bad...