Fresh from their legendary bomb, GIGLI, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez team up
again in one of this year's least anticipated movies, JERSEY GIRL. This
light-weight and sporadically enjoyable romantic comedy is an edge-free film by
writer and director Kevin Smith's angelic twin. Smith's diabolically delicious
dialog is almost non-existent, but every now and then the devilish Smith, whom
we know and love from such sarcastic jewels as CHASING AMY and JAY AND SILENT
BOB STRIKE BACK, sneaks out to give some wickedly funny lines.
As the story opens, Ollie Trinke (Affleck) is a workaholic executive at a PR
agency in Manhattan. He is just about to marry a less driven but no less
successful book publisher, Gertrude Steiney (Lopez). By the end of the first
act, they will have a child named Gertie, played in later acts by 7-year-old
Raquel Castro, an incredibly talented scene-stealer who looks a lot like Lopez.
The first act ends Lopez's involvement in the picture. Later acts feature Liv
Tyler as Maya Harding, a video store employee and student who is single dad
Ollie's potential new love interest.
Ollie has a proclivity for saying horrible things at the worst possible
moments. Denigrating his client and the press as well to a sea of reporters
gets him fired. And saying something equally awful to his daughter crushes her
Ollie's first attempts at being a single father are complete disasters. When
his baby daughter screams, he ignores her or yells at his father (George
Carlin) to take care of her. When Ollie's dad balks at being an unpaid
caregiver, Ollie is at lost as to what to do. Still wealthy at the time, since
he hasn't yet lost his big PR job, he is a rich man who has never heard of the
concept of daycare. He also doesn't know how to change a diaper, etc. The
script, which has frequent credibility problems, has Ollie moving from a
penthouse apartment overlooking Central Park to his dad's rundown New Jersey
house, where Ollie gets work as a driver of a street sweeper. Ollie also
switches instantly from a guy who cares nothing about his daughter to one who
cares about nothing else.
As always, the most memorable scenes in Smith's movie concerns conversations
about sex. "What are your intentions?" Ollie asks Brian, as Brian and Gertie
sit nervously on the living room sofa looking at the stern adult. Ollie caught
the two 7-year-olds harmlessly playing doctor with both them doing nothing more
than staring at each other's private parts. He demands to know if Brian plans
on marrying his daughter. This humorous incident is repeated later with Gertie
in the parental role questioning Maya about her marrying Ollie, after Gertie
catches them in something which they had hoped to be a bit more rigorous than a
game of doctor.
The movie's other funny moment comes in an interview that Maya conducts in a
diner. Questioning Ollie about his sex life for her class report, she is
shocked to find that he has had no sex for the past seven years. Well, none
other than his solitary sessions with the adult tapes he sheepishly rents from
her store. "Man can not live on porn alone," she chastises him, as she takes
him off to follow her advice to "get back on the horse, man." It is just
before the mounting that Gertie walks in, which results in her aforementioned
The movie ends in the big cliché of a school play that the busy father -- Ollie
is going for an interview in order to land another high-paying PR job. -- has
trouble getting to on time. Of course, following the formula, he'll make it
with barely a second to spare. JERSEY GIRL isn't a bad movie, far from it.
But from Kevin Smith we rightly expect better.
JERSEY GIRL runs 1:43. It is rated PG-13 for "language and sexual content
including frank dialogue" and would be acceptable for kids around 12 and up.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes