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All The Real Girls: No Punches Pulled

November 30, 2008

ALL THE REAL GIRLS (2003)
d. David Gordon Green

Alright, it’s official — Zooey Deschanel is a goddess. She needs to be in more movies like this. Of course, she has help from a great script co-written by David Gordon Green and lead actor, Paul Schneider.

David Gordon Green surpasses his moody first film, George Washington, to create something emotionally powerful and genuine. Both Zooey and Paul wrecked me with their amazing performances that had invisible seams; they inhabit their characters so wholly, and reel off dialogue so naturally you forget that these are actors.

Basically, Paul’s character starts a romance with Zooey’s virginal character, and they have to negotiate her brother’s disapproval because of Paul’s womanizing past as well as parsing their feelings to see if its genuine love or not. Paul is convinced that his feelings are real, but an act on Zooey’s part during a party at a lake house threatens their relationship.

This movie has a singular pacing and feeling that is lyrical and poetic. The music aids this floating feeling, that these characters drift into each other and may drift apart. And once again, the performances all around are very strong. Paul and Zooey wear their wounds openly and and what comes pouring out is revelatory. They convince you that they are trying to figure things out in the moment, and it is effortless.

The scene where Zooey confesses her indiscretion to Paul is a stand out, as well as the one where Paul, in an attempt at reconciliation, changes his mind and punches out the window of his car. Finally, the scene where Paul has it out with his mother, Patricia Clarkson, and she breaks down is devastating.

This film has a more cohesive narrative, but Gordon Green still finds many moments to include ambient “pillow” shots that help support and infuse scenes with an emotional quality missing from most films today. It’s a European sensibility filtered through a midwestern small-town ethos.

***1/2 stars. Highly recommended for great performances and a great script.

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