Friday, August 21, 2009


Gigantic (Matt Aselton, 2009) [7]

I've made my preferences known on these so-called quirky indie comedies. I don't particularly care for them. So why do I like this one? I really don't have a great answer other than there are a handful of moments in this film I really did like. I didn't find it nearly as cloying cute and quirky as something like (500) Days of Summer. By no means is this a great film in terms of how its crafted and how its story is executed. It feels to me that Aselton has an emotional timbre in his writing and his directing that connect with me. All the pieces of Gigantic don't quite meld together perfectly but there's just something on a personal movie going experience that I identify with in the characters and Aselton as writer/director.

As for the story, Paul Dano plays Brian, a morose mattress salesman trying to adopt a child from China. One day the daughter of a man who bought a mattress from him comes in (Zooey Deschanel). She falls asleep in the store and that leads to a relationship and a series of events you could label quirky if you wish. The story goes back and forth from being not being entirely believable to being too constructed to create something between the characters. That Dano and Deschanel are so likable and effective in their characterizations that keep the flaws in the story from being too obvious. Deschanel once again plays the same type of character she always seems to play but then again, she's the reason why I'm watching these films. She plays Harriet not as just a perpetually quirky girl but someone with some real conflicts. There is a underlying melancholy and directionless in Harriet as there is in Brian and these two characters together seem to be the answer for each other. Deschanel also sells the character by bringing sly elements of sexiness to the role, such as casually asking Brian if he would like to have sex with her in a doctor's waiting room or the way she takes her earrings off and lets them clang to a pool deck (a really great moment by the way). As for Brian, perhaps the reason I can identify is that the character is a little too close to myself, other than the wanting to adopt a kid part. Dano is an actor I've never had any particular interest in but he has the perfect look and temperament for the role. Brian is a lonely guy with a dead-end career looking for some sort of connection. I guess if you happen to see something in a character like that, the film will appeal to you.

The film's best moments are between these two. The quirk factor comes in from supporting perform aces by John Goodman and Ed Asner among others. And then there's the Zach Galifinakis character, as a homeless man threatening and attacking Brian, taking everything out into left field for a couple of sequences. What to make of it? I was completely perplexed by it at first but after reading some other reviews, it's become pretty clear (I don't want to give any spoilers so I won't reveal it here). The series of encounters never really explain itself in the film and that could be a major reason why it could be seen as the film biggest flaw. The average filmgoer has been expected to have everything that they see on the screen explained in full for them. It is alright to have some ambiguity and let the audience figure it out. Aselton isn't required to tell you everything and there's something to be said in my book for the way he handles the story, leaving a lot of ends open. It creates the feeling that a lot of Gigantic was just a brief glimpse of two characters at a certain point.

I've made this point before that saying that there are certain elements that can override flaws in a film. One I've never really brought up is how an emotional reaction to a film can make something that may not be seen as very good to others important to you. There's only been a handful of films that have an emotional timbre that really makes an impression to me, Lost & Delirious and Night & the City being the two best examples. Gigantic is just going to be a film that I will get a lot more than other critics or viewers.

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