Kevin Smith gets all "grown up"
Publisher: Buena Vista
Fri, 14 January 2005
Email the Author
Ah, Mister Kevin Smith; the film writer/director and comic book author/fanboy geek. Heâ€™s a favourite amongst many of my generation, including myself as a matter of fact. Kevinâ€™s work is not for everyone though and his detractors seem to be almost as passionate as his fans. Although Jersey Girl is quite different to his other movies in various ways, it is still very much a Kevin Smith film at heart. There is far less in the way of swearing and dick and fart jokes here though, so maybe even some non-fans could dig it.
Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a successful music publicist (in other words a professional bullshit artist) living the high life in New York City. He has a beautiful wife, Gertrude (played by Jennifer Lopez), who is pregnant with the coupleâ€™s first baby. Life seems to going really well. Things take a tragic turn however when Gertrude dies from complications during the childâ€™s birth. Ollie does not cope well and ends up being fired from his job and having to move back in with his father Bart (George Carlin) in New Jersey. Eventually Ollie decides to devote himself to being a good father to his daughter- named Gertrude, or Gertie after her mother- and takes a job driving a street sweeper, just like his dad. Fast forward a few years and Ollie and young Gertie (Raquel Castro) are doing well, still living in Bartâ€™s house. They meet a young lady who works at their local video store named Maya (Liv Tyler) who soon becomes a very big part of their life.
This is basically a story about relationships (particularly fatherhood) and responsibility. Thereâ€™s no Jay and Silent Bob, no comic book references or any of those kinds of things people have come to expect from a Kevin Smith movie. But the dialogue is very â€śSmithâ€ť and so is the humour, albeit delivered in a touch more subtle way. Jersey Girl is most closely related to Chasing Amy in terms of content and structure. It is a romantic comedy with dramatic aspects mixed in.
A lot of people hate Ben Affleck. A lot of people hate Jennifer Lopez for that matter. In the case of Lopez it is pretty much a non-issue as she is only in the movie for a short period of time. As for Ben, well Kevin always seems to get the best out of him and as far as Iâ€™m concerned heâ€™s just fine here as Ollie. Smith actually says, in the interview on this discâ€™s extras, that to get good performances from Ben you just have him play himself. Iâ€™m not sure exactly how sarcastic he was being at the time (Ben was standing right next to him as he said it) but you do kind of get the sense that Ollie Trinke isnâ€™t a huge leap from Affleckâ€™s own personality. George Carlin is very good as the wise alcoholic father Bart, instilling the character with plenty of charm. Liv Tyler works well with Smithâ€™s dialogue (which doesnâ€™t suit every actor) and has plenty of appeal (I reckon she is hot). The real standout is Raquel Castro who is simply adorable as Gertie; sheâ€™s very natural and not too sickly sweet. This is her first movie role too apparently. There are a few cameos in Jersey Girl, the most amusing of which is by Will Smith.
Interestingly (well to me at least) I didnâ€™t really like Jersey Girl much the first time I watched it. It wasnâ€™t because I was hoping for the more typical Kevin Smith stuff; I already knew not to expect that. It just seemed too slow and many of the jokes fell flat. But the second time I watched it Jersey Girl really grew on me. I ended up taking it to a friendâ€™s place to watch on a third occasion- all of us liked it that time. Why that is I couldnâ€™t tell you, but if you find yourself not enjoying it on first viewing, maybe you ought to give it a second try as well. It is a sincere film; you can tell that the story and themes are close to Kevinâ€™s heart. He dedicated it to his father, who passed away while the movie was in post production. The jokes arenâ€™t really there to have you splitting your sides with hilarity- they are more to keep the movie from becoming overly melodramatic and to keep the characters grounded and likeable. Thatâ€™s not to say that Jersey Girl is bereft of any laugh out loud moments, because there are certainly a few of those as well.
The DVD includes some fun extras. There are two commentaries: one with Smith and Affleck and the other with Smith, producer Scott Mosier and Jason Mewes (the Jay of Jay and silent Bob fame). Like all the commentary tracks on the Kevin Smith DVDs they are highly interesting and very funny. You also get Kevinâ€™s â€śroadside attractionsâ€ť shorts that he did for the Jay Leno show, some well done text interviews with the cast and more.
This is definitely worth at least a rental. It is also the first Kevin Smith flick you can safely watch with just about anyone without fear of causing offence. There will be a directorâ€™s cut version of the movie that restores the film to the way Smith intended it to be seen, so maybe you should hold off on a purchase until that version is available here. I look forward to Clerks 2: the Passion of the Clerks.
Email the Author
More articles by Hillelman
Deserving of more success