Monday, 2 January 2012
All the Real Girls
Starring: Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Danny McBride
By Alan Bacchus
This is one of the most truthful and honest stories about love. Co-written and directed by David Gordon Green, the 27-year-old sophomore director strips away the artificiality of Hollywood romance and manages to capture the awkwardness and painful realities of real life love. Nobody’s perfect, and there are no formulas or scripts for achieving happiness.
Paul (Paul Schneider, looking like a young John C. Reilly) and Noel (Zooey Deschanel) are two young people in the throws of new love. Though we’re only told after the fact, Paul was a former playboy with a bad reputation for loving and leaving his girlfriends. Noel, on the other hand, is a virgin and naïve to sex and relationships. The romance causes conflict with Noel’s brother, Tip, who happens to be Paul’s best friend. Despite this the relationship blossoms, though Paul chooses to delay sex because he’s actually in love with Noel and wants to treat her differently than his one-night stands. But just as things are going well, an act of infidelity causes a major rift. Suddenly everything is flipped around and both characters are thrown into the deep end of emotions and forced to tread water to survive. Both Noel and Paul make bad decisions and catching up to fix them complicates things even more. Over the course of the film complexities compound each other, and the question then becomes why can’t two people who truly love each other be together?
All the Real Girls is a different film than say, Garden State; it’s certainly not as accessible and requires patience to see the whole story through. Conflict begins about halfway through the film, and from that point on I guarantee you’ll be completely engrossed. Green sets the mood by capturing moments in time. He often enters scenes halfway through the conversation and enjoys watching and observing people doing the most banal of endeavours. Therefore, he’ll often shoot his characters with extremely long lenses as they fix a wheel or brush their hair or light a cigarette. This is how Green establishes the reality and eschews artificiality.
Green also de-romanticizes the environment. The film was shot in North Carolina, which was also the setting and location for Dawson’s Creek. In many ways All the Real Girls is the anti-Dawson’s, as there’s no grandiloquent pontificating or neat life-lessons learned. But Green is not subtle about his love for his characters. For example, the bowling alley scene is so simple and touching but also shamefully romantic. Though the film is beautifully shot with magic-hour light and bathed in golden browns and yellows, Green relishes the ugliness of the town. He spends more time looking at decayed rusty train tracks and dirty old cars than Dawson’s autumn leaves or peaceful rivers.
All the Real Girls threatens to be overly precious, a hallmark of mid-00's quirkiness. The film’s preciousness is summed up in the clown scene, which, looking back, is kind of brilliant and one of the best stand-alone scenes of American indie quirkiness. Enjoy.