365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

2Jan/150

All the Real Girls (2003)

Director David Gordon Green is quietly creeping into the upper echelon of movie directors. He is probably a name most people still have not heard of. Green is known for doing these smaller, independent, character driven movies that are often set in anytown America. To me the movies are extremely realistic because they dive so deep into raw, everyday emotions, specifically dealing with love and lust and jealousy and anger and hurt. Keep in mind as I say this that he also has directed stupid humor comedies like Pineapple Express, The Sitter, and Your Highness, but that just further shows how ultra-talented the man is. The movies that I am talking about are George Washington, Undertow (which I actually didn't like but appreciated), and particularly Snow Angels, a movie I admire in every aspect. I'd actually need to go back and watch Snow Angels again (a movie, coincidentally, that I watched for the second time ever no more than 3 or 4 months ago) before deciding if I like it or All the Real Girls better. To me, both of these movies capture the pureness of simple film-making.

What I like about All the Real Girls is just how real it is. Snow Angels was too, but that was kind of based around one scene in particular that you don't see every day. The story with All the Real Girls is lived every single day in every single city in just about every single country in the world. The film stars Paul Schneider (Bright Star, Lars and the Real Girl). Paul is in his early 20's, lives at home with his mother, and works for his uncle as a car mechanic. He gets his joy from the simple things of small town life which basically means hooking up with every girl in town and just hanging out with his pals Tip (a fabulous Shea Whigham - Take Shelter, television's Boardwalk Empire) in really his first role [on a side note, if you have not seen Take Shelter, add it to your must see list. It's the best movie about the onset of paranoid schizophrenia that you will ever see. Michael Shannon stars and he has never been better nor will likely be as good as again...and I think he's a terrific actor], Bo ( Maurice Compte - End of Watch, Fidel), and Bust-Ass (Danny McBride - Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder). Paul is smitten when Tip's teenage sister Noel (Zooey Deschanel - 500 Days of Summer, Bridge to Terabithia) returns to town after completing boarding school. Against Tip's wishes, Paul and Noel start getting close and a relationship ensues. What transpires through the rest of this movie is not exactly what you would expect, but then again, when does life go according as planned? This movie will make you sad and probably cause you to reevaluate your own life. It's certainly not the feel good movie of the year, but, as I'll say a few times in this review, it feels honest. Now this movie isn't for everyone. Some will find it way too slow and might wonder at the end what they just watched. If you've felt really secure in all of your romantic relationships in life, you might not be able to relate to the characters. But if you have been wounded, if you have witnessed people hurting other people intentionally, then you'll be able to relate and, maybe even, love this movie as much as me.

The person I related to most in the movie was Paul. I am different than Paul, but I think I've carried his mentality before. First, I'll state what is different. He lives in a small town and has a small town reputation of getting what he wants with girls and then leaving them. They end up thinking he is a jerk and you feel poorly for the girls and see this as a major character flaw in Paul. Fortunately, I don't feel like I'm that way at all. I only pursue girls who I think there could be a future with. Otherwise, what's the point? My heart isn't strong enough for anything less. Often it's not even strong enough to last in a relationship with someone I truly care about. But that's a different story entirely. What I do relate to with Paul and what I've experienced firsthand before is fear and self-doubt. We see flashbacks of how he is with other girls, but the only relationship we see him pursue is the one with Noel. And the first few minutes of the movie just shows the two of them, touching each other tenderly in a public setting while talking sweetly to one another. We don't know him (or her for that matter) at all yet so of course we are conditioned to thinking that these two people at least care for each other very much. We soon realize that they have known each other for years, but she has recently moved back home after attending boarding school for her high school years.

In any case, Paul and Tip are similar. They've each had their way with the girls of the town and have swapped all of their stories with one another. So when Tip finds out that Paul is spending time with Noel, he is more than just skeptical. He doesn't threaten as much as he says something to the effect of, "I know who you are. She's my sister. Why can't you just leave this one alone?" He's a little more menacing to Noel, stating all of Paul's flaws and how he'll use her and then walk away. He's being the protective big brother and you are so able to feel the anger he is trying so desperately to mask. Sometimes Tip does a great job with this aspect of his being. At other times, he does not. So going back to the part of Paul that I can relate to is his acceptance that he is the person he is. People are defined by their actions. The best way to predict a person's future behavior is to look at their past behavior. But Paul wants to change. The question is he committed to it and does he have the resources that will allow him to do so. I don't think he's particularly proud of his past behaviors, but he knows he can't go back in change them. What is truth, at least in the present moment, is that he cares for Noel and he doesn't want to hurt him. While he believes that this is the person who can change him of his ways, he doesn't necessarily trust himself to do so. In the back of his mind, he believes what Trip says is true. He's knows when he's done with a girl, he simply just walks away and could care less what others think. His past is catching up with him and he's doing his best to change that. He knows that won't be easy. He knows that will be an everyday struggle, especially when things aren't particularly great with Noel. In the film's first scene, Paul tells Noel he's afraid to kiss her because he's afraid it will set Tip off. I think from the start he knows that if he's going to pursue Noel, he'll have to do it differently from all his previous pursuits. The fear of tip and the potential backlash from that seem like the worst thing that could happen to him though because he cannot fathom the alternative. He is in complete denial that she could ever hurt him because that hasn't happened before. And since, it seems, no girl has ever told him no before, how could he even begin to believe that this could be a possibility. What we do learn about Paul though is that deep down inside, he is just as vulnerable as the rest of us are.

So this is one part of the movie that I absolutely love. What is harder to relate to, and this, I think, is mostly due to the time constraints of a two hour movie is how simple the shift appears to the average viewer. It's almost like you have to connect to this Paul character to understand this movie. For some, it will seem that his shift from disconnected jackass to gentle husband material happens to easily and seems way to difficult to believe. Not for me. There is definitely some vagueness with how much time passes between scenes. Often times it seems that scenes occur in the same day or one after the other. At other times, it seems like there could be weeks passing between scenes. I felt that Green was purposely vague and I mostly liked that. But there were times where I really wanted to know how much time passed from a previous scene to one I was currently watching. It follows the fairly logical progression of a relationship. Noel is a virgin coming into this movie and Paul definitely is not. The idea of "will they or won't they" isn't much of a debate. More so is the circumstances before and after.

The second part of the movie that needed some work was Noel's ability to just go for Paul despite all that she knows about him. She seems to have no regard for his lifestyle and his use them and leave them approach. How is she supposed to believe that she is any different? But we never know what is running through a person's head when they are making their decisions, especially when love is involved. She's infatuated with Paul. Perhaps she has been even before she went away to school. Perhaps she believes she can be enough for him. Perhaps she knows that there is a strong potential to be hurt, but that she either doesn't care or doesn't know how difficult that might be to go through. Again, this is all new for her. But she does have a coming of age moment that only Zooey Deschanel can have. Though this character nearly unrecognizable compared to her roll as Summer in the fantastic, almost flawless 500 Days of SummerThe movie will take you for a ride and you might be incredulous after your fist viewing. If you feel this way AND you do like this movie, watch it again. Watch it three times. Watch it four times. Watch it over and over and over again.

The role characters are great too. Green really did a good job on shedding light on so many different characters. The leads stole the show. Actually, it was there relationship that stole they each played their part. They each show that they are human. They show vulnerability. The performances are quiet and understated and real. As mentioned Whigham's Tip is fantastic as the protective older brother of Noel and best friend/running mate of Paul. He's ripped up inside because Paul is his best friend, but knows that, much like himself, he treats the woman of the town poorly. Like Paul, he wants to change, but knows how difficult that is. Whigham steals every scene he is in. Also convincing is Patricia  Clarkson (Pieces of April, Showtime's Six Feet Under) as Paul's mom Elvira. What is her job you might ask? She's a clown. She loves Paul and sees this world as a difficult place that can be both beautiful and brutal. When Paul tells her he's happy, she sees right through him as only a mother can do. But perhaps the most underrated performance in the movie belongs to Benjamin Mouton (Flatliners, A Time to Kill) who kills it as Paul's uncle Leland. A man of few words, there is not a wasted moment when he is on screen as he staggers through the film, painstakingly reminiscing at one point about the passing of his late wife and how he wonders if all of what he experienced was worth it because the loss of the love of his life was so great. He's all Paul really has in terms of a role model. He was great. Mouton seemed to have retired after this moving. I still remember him as Julia Robert's father in Flatliners. He was chilling in that role. On another side note, see Flatliners. It also is an amazing movie and scary as hell.

Plot 10/10 (I loved it...I love movies about real relationships that I can relate to...I totally get it if there are those out there who watch this movie and think it was the most pointless two hours of their life...I would not argue with you because this is a movie I would never want to debate...However it makes you feel, just like just about everything in life, is right)
Character Development 10/10 (the actions of the characters in this movie don't always make sense, but that's what makes them so honest...our actions in life are always reactions to things others have done)
Character Chemistry 9/10 (there were some lame-o's like McBride's Bust-Ass who were put there for comic relief which I didn't necessarily care for, but all of the actors who had serious roles were at their best)
Acting 10/10 (top notch...you'd think these actors were each pulled from streets of the rural town where this was shot)
Screenplay 9/10 (Green and Schneider wrote the story...they had a vision as a couple of guys in the early 20's and I think they carried it to fruition)
Directing 8.5/10 (Loved it...it jumps around a little too much...I'm thinking it was shot out of sequence or maybe the characters drifted in a different direction from the original story...it's not QUITE as smooth as it could be...Green is still a work in progress, but he's not even 40 yet...I hope he keeps challenging himself with the type of dramas)
Cinematography 10/10 (so realistic...so beautiful...nothing to overdone...just dreary)
Sound 9.5/10 (music is playing softly for, what feels like, a majority of the movie...it's never overdone...the music is somber, but peaceful)
Hook and Reel 10/10 (it's definitely slow...I don't know why this movie captured me in such a way when other, similar type movies have no effect...however, I'm glad this one drew me in, held me, and encouraged me to watch it over and over and over again)
Universal Relevance 9.5/10 (poignant to me on so many levels)
95.5%

I love this movie.

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