Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
All the Real Girls (2002)
"You're the best boy for me to hold on to, and I know I'm the best girl for you."- Noel (Zooey Deschanel)
Stars: Patricia Clarkson, Zooey Deschanel, Paul Schneider, Shea Whigham
Director: David Gordon Green
MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexuality
Run Time: 01h:47m:34s
Release Date: 2003-08-19
DVD ReviewYou've got to applaud filmmakers who want to do something more poetic and less prosaic with a feature—anybody can shoot footage, but imbuing it with emotion and point of view is the mark of an artist. But still, feature-length filmmaking is principally a narrative medium—things in movies can be poetic, but the whole can't really stand up if it's just about its poetry. And that's sort of the undoing of All the Real Girls, the second film directed by David Gordon Green—it's a movie so full of its own striving for something ineffable that it fails to bring along its audience on this allegedly poetic journey.
The set-up is straightforward: in a Southeastern mill town, Paul (Paul Schneider) pals around with Tip (Shea Whigham), hanging with their other friends, drinking beer, sleeping with girls, not necessarily in that order of priority. Things change when Tip's little sister comes back to town—Noel (Zooey Deschanel) has been off in an all-girls' boarding school, and she and Paul strike up a friendship; as does her uneasy brother, we all know that this will be leading to more, especially if you've taken a glance at the photo on the cover of the DVD case.
I admire Green and Schneider (both his leading man and his writing partner) for wanting to imbue these characters with a certain dignity and nobility, and at its best, the movie works up an empathy for these people, a sort of 21st-century equivalent of the great Depression-era photographs of Walker Evans. But after a while, you get the sense that there isn't much else here, and atmospherics alone aren't enough to sustain our attention for two hours. There's some nice acting, especially from Schneider, brimming with the self-importance of a small-town Romeo getting his heart broken for the first time, and the film doesn't ever traffic in the stereotypes that these sorts of characters are so often reduced to on screen. But there's something so studied and mannered about the dialogue (e.g., "I like hanging around with you because you look around and listen, and when I was little I was too dumb to notice") and the filmmaking style—languorous close-ups on subsidiary characters, or little valentines to the landscape—that prevent you from getting caught up in the story. And that's a serious problem.
The filmmakers seems to have a keen sense of the complex web of relationships between these many characters, but frequently that web is so dense as to be impenetrable. Patricia Clarkson is terrific in the small role of Paul's mother, but she doesn't get nearly enough screen time; the ending of the film is supposed to be ambiguous and bittersweet, but without much dramatic tension propelling the whole venture forward, it's more than likely going to leave you flat.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The lush colors in the cinematography are ably reproduced in this transfer, and you'll find more North Carolina sunsets here than in just about any other film. The black levels are especially rich and full.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: The use on the soundtrack of silences after particularly loud scenes make this a dynamic and full audio track, and it's handsomely reproduced here, with strengths at the top and bottom of the register, and little or no ambient noise.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in French, Spanish, Portuguese with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Love Liza
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by David Gordon Green and Paul Schneider
Layers Switch: 00h:57m:41s
Extras Review: A making-of documentary (18m:51s) features interviews with the director and many of the principal cast members; just as you might suspect, their principal intention was establishing a mood, not telling a story, and given their aims, I suppose they were successful, on their terms. Green and Schneider provide a commentary track full of trivia—they were college roommates, and also went to school with their cinematographer, Tim Orr, among others in the credits; and Caleb Deschanel, the father of their leading lady, remains one of their great heroes. (HE was the D.P. on such notable films as The Right Stuff, The Natural and The Black Stallion.) The guys working on the film all seem like pals, which is nice, but things become a mutual admiration society, and frankly I was not as enamored of their little fraternity as they themselves are. The four deleted scenes are interesting less as parts of the narrative, and more as instances of the working methods employed here—let the camera run, and perhaps something interesting will happen. Perhaps.
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsThere's passion for the craft of filmmaking on display here, and you've got to respect Green and his colleagues for their ambition. But this is ultimately a largely unsatisfying movie, that doesn't do nearly as well with the same sorts of issues and characters as does, for instance, The Last Picture Show. And whatever you think of the film, the extras package here is liable only to ratify your views, not change them.
Jon Danziger 2003-08-18