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JERSEY GIRL (PG-13) (2004)


Official Site

Director: Kevin Smith

Producers: Scott Mosier, Lauren Greenlee, Kevin Smith

Written by: Kevin Smith

Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Liv Tyler, George Carlin, Raquel Castro, Stephen Root, Mike Starr, Jason Biggs


Jersey Girl is the latest offering from writer-director, Kevin Smith, the man behind such cult hits as Clerks and Mallrats. Now it seems Smith would like to move beyond his nice Jay and Silent Bob films to make more high-concept, big-budget fare. In some respects, you can call this Smith’s transitional film, a departure from his last five “View Askew Universe” pictures before he moves on to such projects as The Green Hornet or Fletch Lives.

This film is a semi-autobiographical tale for Smith—of a man coming to grips with fatherhood and all the good and bad that accompanies it. When you have a child, sometimes you have to set aside your own life plans, because being a responsible parent is the most important thing. The father in this movie is Ollie Trinke (Affleck), a high-powered NYC publicist who grew up in the humble town of Highland, NJ under the guidance of his foul-mouthed but caring father, Bart (Carlin).

Ollie hooks up with Gertrude (Lopez), whom I assume is a fellow publicist. I’m really not clear on that since her character isn’t given any kind of backstory or introduction, most likely because of the disaster that shall not be named (Gigli). Lopez’s character and romance with Ollie come off as very rushed, as if the filmmakers were trying to get past the relationship as quickly as possible and pretty much gutted Lopez’s role. Smith even cut a wedding scene so moviegoers wouldn’t be “confused” when they saw it, since Affleck and Lopez broke up in real life.

Gertrude and Ollie become pregnant, but Gertie dies after giving birth to their daughter, whom Ollie names Gertrude in her memory. Ollie moves back to Highland to live with his father so little Gertrude can be taken care of while he works. Obviously, a tough cookie like George Carlin won’t put up with that situation, so he tries to get Ollie to realize that his daughter is now the most important thing in his life, not the job… which Ollie loses pretty quickly.

Ollie gets back into the family street-sweeping business, while Gertie (Castro) grows older and gets excited about getting to perform a piece at her school from a play of her choice. In the meantime, Ollie is having what I think is some sort of romance with the local video store clerk (and Armageddon co-star), Maya (Tyler). It’s kind of weird seeing Tyler wearing normal clothes and glasses, since I’ve grown so accustomed to seeing her with pointy ears and sheer, transparent gowns. Although Ollie has mainly concentrated on taking care of his daughter the last seven years, he still harbors the bug and wild ambitions to be a publicist and “live la vida loca.” So of course, as the rest of the movie goes Ollie has to have another epiphany and learn that none of that is important any more, and that Gertrude’s life and happiness is paramount. I became quite confused because I thought Ollie already came to that conclusion earlier.

Right off the bat I can tell you Smith’s biggest mistake is casting preppy, pretty boy Ben Affleck as a young man with humble beginnings from a small, lower end Jersey town. Affleck doesn’t have that sort of everyman quality that would’ve helped with this role. I’ve never cared for Affleck’s unconvincing acting style, nor do I here. When his character tries to show emotional range, no sympathy or empathy really registers. Lopez’s Gertrude was so small and barely existent I wonder what she’s still doing in the narrative in the first place. It would have been just as effective to completely cut her character or re-shoot her scenes with another actress.

Despite all the flaws, Jersey Girl is a touching story, Carlin is funny as usual, and the lovely Tyler does good work. Raquel Castro, who plays Gertie at age seven, is very cute and energetic. Carlin’s drinking buddies, Greenie (Root) and Blackie (Starr), are also very entertaining. Jason Biggs appears in the movie as Affleck’s friend and assistant, still playing Jim from the American Pie films.

Even though people say that Smith has “matured” beyond his prior films, the jokes and humor here are still pretty lowbrow (The movie was rated PG-13 for “frank dialogue.” Good one, MPAA.). A good deal of the film’s laughs center around bathroom habits, masturbation, and just about whatever else you’d expect from a Kevin Smith film, except that there are s-bombs instead of f-bombs. It makes one wonder if Smith really has matured, and you can only hope that in his Green Hornet film, Green Hornet and Kato don’t spontaneously break out into an argument over size comparisons between Asians and Americans. That is yet to be revealed.

—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris


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