Starring Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner, Jane Alexander, John Goodman, Sean Dugan, Sean Dugan, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Zach Galifianakis, Frank Harts, Tatsuo Ichikawa, Ilana Levine, Susan Misner, Kenji Nakano and Clarke Peters.
Screenplay by Matt Aselton and Adam Nagata.
Directed by Matt Aselton.
Distributed by First Independent Pictures. 98 minutes. Rated R.
There is something almost heroic in Zooey Deschanel’s determination to maintain a idiosyncratic cult career despite the fact that she should be a natural star – she’s funny, a good actress, charming and an understated beauty. She should be getting some of the roles being offered to Anne Hathaway, Kate Hudson, Elizabeth Banks and Rashida Jones, but instead she seems to prefer to toil away in below-the-radar alternative titles like Gigantic.
In the rare occasions in which she has worked in Hollywood mainstream roles – like the adorable love interest in Will Ferrell’s Elf and as the one saving grace in the beyond-awful Matthew McConaughey/Sarah Jessica Parker comedy Failure to Launch – Deschanel paints with pixie dust and upstages all the frenetic attempts of co-stars to dumb everything down.
She has even taken that approach to other aspects of her artistic career – her musical side project with folk artist M. Ward was subtly named She & Him and they refused to play up the “actress trying to be a singer” storyline. It was just something she felt she wanted to do, so she did it – another life adventure.
Her willingness to do eccentric indie fare has made her sort of the sweetheart of the film festival guys – a Parker Posey of the oughties.
Unfortunately, indie isn’t always good. Sometimes it’s just quirky for quirkiness’ sake. Her character here – nicknamed Happy – is just the same type of nerdboy ideal of a neurotic, quirky, inscrutable fantasy woman that Deschanel has played all too often before, most recently in last year’s straight-to-video mopefest The Good Life.
Happy is gorgeous but doesn’t realize it, cowed by her powerful and boisterous father. (Played by John Goodman – I’m not getting the family resemblance there.) She is quiet, single, supportive, a little mopey and yet not afraid to ask a guy she barely knows “would you be interested in having sex with me?”
That lucky guy is Brian, who is played by Paul Dano – his oddball follow-up to his breakthrough role as the priest in There Will Be Blood. He is a 28-year-old single New York mattress salesman who has decided he wants to adopt an Asian baby. (Yeah, that happens…) He also tends to do magic mushrooms with his dad (Ed Asner, certainly playing against type) and for some reason seems to be stalked by a menacing homeless man who beats, shoots and stabs him regularly. It often seems like the homeless guy may be a figment of his imagination – but he really is getting the scars.
Brian meets Happy when her dad buys a $14,000 mattress from him. (I’m sorry, I know I’m not exactly in the loop on furniture prices, but that sounds awfully high to me – particularly since when they deliver it, the bed is a single, not a queen or king.) He seems to fall for her then and there, though we are not sure whether it is because of her quiet beauty or because of the fact that she was comfortable enough to fall asleep on the floor model of the mattress for a few hours.
What follows is an extremely understated love story – with some designed-to-be-offbeat sidetracks with their families and his co-workers. The problem is the uniqueness of the characters lives seem to be all put on. As I said before: quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake. That, I’m afraid, is a statement that pretty much sums up Gigantic in general.
This movie was never made with any eye towards playing at the multiplexes. I’m sure that director Matt Aselton would be tickled pink if his little opus gets played on the festival circuit a bit before getting casually slipped into video distribution. It’s nice that they set their sights low and stuck with their convictions. Someone should remind him however that different does not always mean better and sometimes it is nice for someone to actually enjoy your work of art.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 21, 2009.