Thomas Thompson

Jersey Girl

30th June 2004
Jersey Girl Poster reviewer: Thomas Thompson
rating: 3 out of 5
directed by: Kevin Smith
written by: Kevin Smith
starring: Ben Affleck, Jason Biggs, George Carlin, Raquel Castro, Liv Tyler
genre: Comedy Drama
released: 18th June 2004

I'm not entirely sure what I think about this film. A couple of gripes would be the clichéd plot and films' shaky start. Kevin Smith's first film outside of the New Jersey 'trilogy' is a very well acted fare, though it really is a complete departure from his previous mouthy 'slacker' comedies. For a start it's not a comedy. Not foremost anyway.

There are a few telling moments that this is a film written by the Silent Bob. 'Gutter' humour creeps up occasionally, and provides a small but fresh take on the rom com/'child bonding' genre. The usual humour is toned down a fair bit, and doesn't quite provide the laughter of previous films. More of a drama than a comedy though, the belly laugh's aren't what the film promises, so any criticism in that area is unjustified.

The film is a personal one from Kevin Smith as a parent, and as someone who has lost his father. As such it's likely more affective if you can relate to either experience, or are at the age where you'd be ready for a child. Considering this film isn't aimed at me, past my View Askew allegiance, I still found it to be an entertaining and moving piece, though perhaps finding myself not fully immersed throughout. It takes a while to start, the opening scenes feel rushed, and the relationship between Jennifer Lopez and Affleck doesn't exactly shout 'chemistry', which is surprising considering 'Bennifer' kicked off while this was being filmed.

The premise is simple enough; Ollie Trinke is left to raise his child as a single parent. His life changes. His priorities change. He meets new people with the same priorities post his priorities changing. One of them is a woman. The plot is very much par for the course for these films. In the same way that every film about a child and an adult's relationship always ends in the adult having to decide between something important to them and something important to the child, be it a school play, or a spelling bee or whatever it was in Home Alone, this is no different. It's a shame really, because with the excellent cast, the great chemistry and interaction between all characters, and Smith's past record, Jersey Girl demands something better than this bog standard cliché, no matter how well it's executed.

And it is well executed. Very well executed. What it does, it does well. Ben Affleck's lead is that of a company man, which is another discrepancy to the earlier jay and Silent Bob flicks, as the slacker culture is left in lue of big city and big business ideals. Something that many a pre existing fan might find to be a less relatable attribute than the likes of Brodie Bruce and Dante Hicks offered. This is an intelligent character who has met his potential, rather than sat around and wallowed in it. The film breaks from the usual in jokes and references that have provided another level on all Askew films since Mallrats followed Clerks, too. Not an issue to anyone coming to this film afresh, though people already akin to the View Askew universe will have to make do spotting the likes of 'Rick Derris' from clerks playing a similar role as a reporter. For everyone else there's a nice extended cameo from a blockbuster actor, and smaller appearances from more recognisable Askew regulars Jason Lee and Matt Damon.

The opening fifteen minutes aren't anything to write home about; they set the scene, and do it quickly. It's quite a sluggish opening, pacing seems a bit askew, as rumours of cut scenes to whittle 'J-lo' down to as little screen time as possible appear to be true. The characters at this point don't seem to interact particularly well either. Still, it doesn't take too long for the film to find its stride, it just takes a little longer than you'd like to bring you in. With no twists or turns to speak of, this is a by the numbers, on rails, 'child and father figure' movie done very well with a slight dick and fart joke glossing. Characters have depth. The dialogue is well written. All actors perform admirably. Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Jason Biggs, George Carlin and Raquel Castro should have cemented their careers for the next few years. The comedy is light but consistent, and likeable. It serves a purpose. Emotional scenes are genuinely emotional, regardless of how well you actually relate to them, though obviously that helps. For the most part the film is well shot, though it'd have been nicer had the nappy changing scene been cut so that you simply saw their faces, though that's a mute point.

In all it's a film that ultimately is built on a weak cliché that we've seen just too many times before. It's enough to entertain your attention, and you'll find you care about the characters, but hopefully this will be the last film to feature a school play and one empty chair in the audience for the next few years. Worth watching, though surpassed by earlier films. Specifically Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy. The first View Askew film to lack originality is still a good movie, just not a great one.