Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jersey Girl (2004)

Jersey Girl (2004)
Rated PG-13
Starring: Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Raquel Castro, George Carlin, Stephen Root, Jennifer Lopez, Jason Biggs, Will Smith
Directed by: Kevin Smith
Tagline: Forget who you thought you were, and just accept who you are.
Running time: 102 Minutes

Quick Summary: After losing his wife during child birth, a successful music publicist is forced to raise their daughter on his own. As the struggles mount between his career and his new responsibilities as a father, he suffers a breakdown that costs him his lucrative career. Afterwards, he dedicates his life to raising his daughter, and turning his life around.

I have intentionally been avoiding watching this movie for eight years now. It’s no secret that Kevin Smith is one of my favorite directors, Clerks is my favorite movie of all time, and I’ve loved everything else that he’s done that I’ve seen. In 2004, at the age of 20, seeing the trailer for this movie, I wasn’t that interested, so I wasn’t really planning on going out of my way to see it then, but then the film started getting terrible reviews, getting trashed by critics all over the place, and I knew I didn’t want to see it. I mean, if it really was that bad, then why would I want to see it?

Fast forward 8 years, and I decided that I owed it to myself as a Kevin Smith fan to check it out, so I put it in the Netflix queue and waited for it to show up at my door. I watched it the other night, and my initial reaction? It wasn’t that bad. It’s nowhere near his best work, and if I was to rank all of his movies, it would be my least favorite, but I got it, I understood what he was going for with it.

As I am getting ready to be a father myself (in less than 2 months), it certainly makes a lot more sense to me now than it would have when I was 20, and can appreciate what Smith was trying to do. There is nothing wrong with taking chances or trying to branch out a little bit, and up to that point, he had made 5 features, all of which were in the same vein: wry, vulgar, slacker comedies. Going into a Kevin Smith movie prior to 2004, you knew exactly what you were looking for: funny dialog, characters and witty banter. You weren’t looking for deeply rooted, emotional characters or serious dramatic situations. Smith set out to do something different, and I think he accomplished that goal with this movie. Financially and critically, it may have not been a success, but he did what he wanted, so more power to him.

As for the cast, it probably hurt the film that Affleck and Lopez were in it together after the epic failure that was Gigli (which I’ve still never seen, and have no desire to), a different choice in casting could have probably helped some, but I think Affleck wasn’t bad, though he was nominated for a Razzie (two, actually). I think he’s a better director and writer than he is an actor, but he was decent. I like the inclusion of George Carlin in a slightly more serious role. He was always such a funny guy, that it was cool to see him branch out a little into something else. Liv Tyler wasn’t terrible either, though she sounded exactly the same to me as Joey Lauren Adams in Mallrats or Chasing Amy. Not in her voice, but in the manner in which she spoke. I’m not sure if that was something she was trying to do or just the way Smith wrote the lines, but it was a little weird to me. I was really impressed by Raquel Castro, the little girl. She was pretty stellar, more than holding her own in all of her screen time. Having Will Smith cameo as himself was pretty awesome too, and I really enjoyed his scenes. 

Still, it would have to be my least favorite of Smith’s movies, but I don’t regret watching it, I’m glad I did, as it gives me a feeling of completion knowing I’ve seen all of his released movies to date.

3 out of 5 stars

Still better than Avatar


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