April 2, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 97  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Go back to Jersey, girl!


Jersey Girl
Starring: Ben Affleck, Racquel Castro, Liv Tyler, George Carlin, Jason Biggs and Jennifer Lopez
Directed by: Kevin Smith

By Nicole D’Cruz
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
“HELLO, WANT TO GO FOR A SWIM?” Though most would enjoy swimming with the hot likes of Ben Affleck and Liv Tyler, they would not enjoy watching Jersey Girl.

It’s a touching story — a man’s wife dies during childbirth, and he’s forced to give up the life he once had to care for his daughter, whom he realizes is more important than a fancy job or Manhattan apartment. The story might warm your heart, but a Kevin Smith fan will be left feeling cold with this sappy made-for-TV plot.

In Jersey Girl Ollie Trinke (Affleck) is a music publicist, always dressed in suits and wielding his power and money. Trinke meets Gertie Steiney (Lopez) and after a whirlwind courtship, they get married and she gets pregnant.

Obviously, the happiness can’t last as Gertie dies during childbirth. Afterwards, Ollie feels he can’t give up his previous lifestyle and pays no attention to his newborn daughter until her incessant crying aids him in losing his job. Ollie is forced to move in with his father (Carlin), takes a job as a street cleaner and learns the ropes of parenthood.

There’s a touching moment when Ollie finally acknowledges his baby and Gertie’s death, which Smith has been quoted as saying was easy to film because of Affleck’s love for J.Lo. But as easy as it is for Affleck — the plastic man himself — to play Ollie Trinke as the businessman, watching Affleck try to cry on cue is just uncomfortable to watch.

Seven years pass, and Ollie and Gertie Jr. (it’s child abuse to pass that name on) are still living with Pop. Ollie still works for the city, and Gertie, played wonderfully by newcomer Castro, is a precocious second-grader with a determined nature reminiscent of her late mother.

The audience is introduced to Maya (Tyler), the video store clerk working on a thesis dealing with pornography. The two-bit dialogue about masturbation between Maya and Ollie is as close as one gets to the tongue-in-cheek sexual script prevalent in Smith’s past films. It’s obvious there is chemistry between the two, but the audience is not shown the development of their relationship.

As things have been going relatively smoothly, conflict must, of course, arise again. Ollie, feeling stuck in a rut, decides it’s time to find another publicist job in the city, much to the dismay of Gertie and the rest of the Jersey clan. Harsh words are said, tears are shed and one can easily assume the decision Ollie will make.

Jersey Girl isn’t intended to continue in the style of the Jersey Trilogy, or even Smith’s more recent films. The film is part biographical — inspired by Smith’s own daughter and the loss of his father — but one can only hope Jersey Girl is an isolated, sappy-crap film in Smith’s successful career as a humourous and creative filmmaker.

Throughout the film, Carlin and his two sidekicks, played by Stephen Root and Mike Starr, provide much-needed comic relief in the otherwise endless string of Hallmark moments. Smith seems to miss the notion that a film can be touching while still using smart humour and not just utilizing the precocious child versus inexperienced parent relationship we’ve seen in many Disney films.

Although it is in the genre of sappy family flicks and admittedly slow-moving and predictable, might be worthy of a rental. However, a fan of Smith’s quirky characters, witty dialogue and unconventional plots is better off watching any film from the Jersey trilogy rather than this one with Jersey in the title.

 

 

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