Jersey Girl

Review Date:
Director: Kevin Smith
Writer: Kevin Smith
Producers: Scott Mosier
Ben Affleck as Ollie, Raquel Castro as Gertie, Liv Tyler as Maya
A man in love with his pregnant wife falls into a tailspin when his daughter is born but his doting better-half, passes away during the birth. Self-involved and ineffectual as a single parent, the man asks his dad to take care of the kid, until he loses his way even further and must raise the child on his own. Seven years later, the daughter is all growns up and looks like a mini-version of J-Lo. Cutie-pie.
This is definitely a different kind of Kevin Smith movie. From the man who brought us corpse-sex and cocksmokers back in 1994’s $27,000 movie CLERKS, comes a sweet story about a man, his daughter and the unconditional love between them. This is not a film for the legion of Smith’s habitual fans (well, maybe those with girlfriends and wives…), but it does serve its purposes for the more commercially receptive audiences to which this film is clearly being marketed. I liked this movie for a number of reasons, prime among them being the believable and touching relationship between the father and daughter, as well as both of the actors portraying the characters, Ben Affleck and Raquel Castro, respectively. Castro, in particular, is about as adorable as any kid actor that I’ve seen in a long time and Smith takes full advantage of her cuteness. It doesn’t hurt that she eerily resembles her mother in the film, played nicely by Jennifer Lopez, in a few early scenes. I’ve had a “hard” and an “on” for Lopez since her sultry turn in OUT OF SIGHT, but that’s a whoooole other story, my friends. The relationship between Affleck and Castro is essentially what rolls this movie along, rocking between a couple of emotional scenarios that actually twinkled my own shit and some goofier kid/parent moments. My favorite scene in the entire film features Affleck facing his kid in a crib for one of the first times and confessing a whole bunch of his pent up emotions. The man is extremely effective in the scene. I’ve been a supporter of Affleck since he choked me up in ARMAGEDDON (and wasn’t he the fuckin’ bomb in PHANTOMS?), but even more seriously, in both BOUNCE and CHANGING LANES, two roles for which I don’t believe he’s been given enough credit.

That said, he needed to carry this film’s emotional core on his sleeve and did so with great success. I also appreciated the semi-relationship developed between he and Liv Tyler, which didn’t take the typical route. Despite most of the film being somewhat predictable, the relationship between those two characters was actually a lot more open-ended (me likey open-ended) On the downside, I’m not a fan of “montages” and this film just had too many of them, as well as an over-emphasis on songs to “make the moment”. A couple of goofball characters, friends of Affleck’s father in the film, were also obviously inserted for comic relief, but did nothing for me. The film’s final 20 minutes were also surprisingly generic and even a little cheesy (then again, I hate plays with a passion!) Smith does succeed in making his film look damn polished though and that’s a big credit to him (and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond), since his directing prowess has always been one of his least mentioned strengths as a filmmaker. The script also maintains a decent balance between drama and comedy, although it’s definitely geared more toward the dramatic, and the laughs are generally of the “chuckle kind”, as opposed to the ass-tearing hilarious dialogue he banged out in his previous, more low-brow, fare (gotta love that low-brow fare!) In fact, despite a few “Smith-isms”, most of the film’s dialogue is pretty straightforward/sweet and strays from his habit of having conversations sound too “written” at times. Kudos. The film’s not perfect by any means, not helped by the fact that I’m personally not a fan of the sappy stuff, but if you’re a father, if you’re a daughter or if you’re someone like me who wants to be a father with a daughter (aaaaaaaaaaaah!), the film is sure to toggle with many of your own emotional shortcomings, offer easy-going laughs and some damn solid acting and chemistry between pop and daughter. Nifty cameos and a genuine dedication at the end of the film were also nice touches.

On a personal note, it’s great to see a filmmaker you admire put his balls on the chopping block and try something so completely different. This film can only help but make Kevin Smith a more rounded movie-man and that’s sure to come in handy with his next big project, a little something called THE GREEN HORNET!

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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