Thursday, June 5, 2003

One-horse movie

Movie: All the Real Girls

Posted on Thu, Jun 5, 2003 at 4:00 AM

**
Our Rating: 2.00

The unmitigated highlight of the alleged Jennifer Aniston vehicle "The Good Girl," Zooey Deschanel is a star on the ascendant. Part Thora Birch and part Debra Winger (remember her?), the sparkling Deschanel has a homespun haughtiness that could make the worst indie fiasco endurable.

"All the Real Girls," sadly, does its damndest to test the theory. A borderline-unwatchable excursion into rural romance, it casts the Zooster as a small-town virgin who finds unexpected luuurv with the best friend of her brother. That would be Paul (Paul Schneider), a make-out artist who's already dipped his quill into just about every ink well in town. This seems less like compulsive behavior than a vindication of the law of averages: Given the lack of fresh faces and entertainment options their stultifying environment provides, even a eunuch would get around to sleeping with half the phone book sooner or later.

Yes, it's another hanging-out-and-talking movie, proud of its immersion in a tranquilized Americana that's become the subject of much misplaced fascination. When oh when are today's filmmakers going to abandon their preoccupation with lifestyle squalor and realize that audiences like to see movies about people who occasionally, you know, do stuff once in a while?

There are worse fates, though, than hanging out and talking with Deschanel, whose Noel is smart enough to know she's surrounded by her base inferiors, but kind enough to treat them with more than the blithe disregard they deserve. No wonder Paul comes around to realizing that he has genuine (gasp!) feelings for her. Unfortunately, this is right around the time that writer/director David Gordon Green ("George Washington") discerns a pressing need to squeeze an actual narrative development into his film -- and does so with a shit-stirring flourish that's so unsubstantiated and out of character that it renders even Deschanel's performance irrelevant. We spend the rest of the movie wondering when we wandered into the motivational Bizarro World, and why it isn't any more interesting than where we were before.

Leading man Schneider was Green's college roommate, and he gets credit for co-authoring the story. That explains (but doesn't excuse) his appearance in the role of Paul, an absolutely unbelievable bit of casting that has the picture feeling bogus from square one. Nobody's lothario, he instead comes on like the kind of guy that Midwestern farm queens rely on for free rides on the Tilt-a-Whirl but wouldn't dream of inviting into their boudoirs. Eunuch or no.

There's also a supporting role for Patricia Clarkson, which is now apparently a law or something.

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