Directed by David Gordon Green
Written by Green and Paul Schneider
Starring:Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Patricia Clarkson and Shea Whigham
Well, they’ve finally done it. I never imagined it was possible or even desirable, but a film has been made about an entire town of dribbling, shit-faced retards. And while such a concept is ripe for mockery or satire, All the Real Girls, the second feature film from director David Gordon Green, plays it straight. Yes, Mr. Green loves these people – embraces them as visions of idealism and quiet beauty – and we are meant to share in his celebration. Before you run out with your mean-spirited buddies to take in this cinematic feast, I must admit that the people in this film are not actually retarded (with one exception), although I had to check a few reviews afterward to make sure. Even now, I cannot believe that these characters – among the most boring in the history of film – are not afflicted with some type of brain disorder. They are dimwitted, slow, maddening, and so inarticulate that, after a couple of hours of Green’s film, one might consider viewing an Adam Sandler film to relearn the English language. The conversations in this film are so beneath normal human speech that I wondered if these people were from another planet. When I realized that they were living in small town North Carolina, I slapped my forehead with recognition. I may not know people this repellant and so immersed in the life of an unwashed yokel, but they exist. Oh my, how they exist.
For anyone who has seen Green’s George Washington, it is expected that any semblance of a story will take a backseat to quiet, meditative scenes of natural beauty. And, admittedly, the cinematography in this film is lush and at times, achingly beautiful. I only wish that Green had filled the beautiful scenes with people for whom I could give a rat’s ass. I would have much preferred a nature documentary with flowing rivers, awe-inspiring sunsets, and serene music, so that I could have taken a light nap without any pangs of guilt. Instead, Green ruined the scenery by insisting on presenting characters with absolutely nothing interesting going for them. The “story,” if such a term is to be used, deals with local bad boy Paul (Paul Schneider) and his tentative, yet intense love affair with resident virgin Noel (Zooey Deschanel). Apparently, Paul has slept with every hillbilly in town, yet it is Noel he loves; so much so that he refuses to sleep with her. And hey, minus any sex, I can certainly understand why his heart aches for the treasure that is Noel. At no time did I want to do anything but pound spikes into her head, yet Paul is enamored as he would be had he met the sort of woman who inspires great sonnets. Noel is a bumbling, rambling, nearly unconscious twit without any ability whatsoever to hold ten lousy seconds of conversation. She does have a retarded brother (the lone exception I referred to earlier), so that might explain her apparent mind-rape. This is the sort of woman who yammers about dreams she had involving her invention of peanut butter (no, please, go on!) and spends at least ten minutes telling a 15-second story about the scars on her stomach. And yes, doesn’t it seem that films like this always involve a fragile flower who acquired physical wounds during “a summer long ago?”
At any rate, the two sit around boring us to tears with conversations better suited to the winner’s circle at the Special Olympics. Paul fights with Noel’s brother, who of course wants to protect his sister from Paul’s wolfish tendencies. But, irony of ironies, it is Noel who sleeps with someone else, an unseen man who seduces young Noel while she is away for the weekend at some boathouse. At least we know someone in the vicinity of this town knew what to do with the brainless Noel, so we can take comfort that someone didn’t drink from the same well that turned this entire town into a blob of imbecilic ass holes. Noel returns from the getaway, gives Paul the news, and he reacts in the only way possible for someone who appears to be reading from cue cards. Their relationship is never the same of course, although Noel tries to keep close. She (or he, I don’t remember) even says that she (or he) hopes that they can continue saying interesting things to each other as they grow old together. What?!? When the fuck did you start? I am not kidding when I say that never before in the history of movies have I heard conversations more torturous to endure. They may talk like this in Carolina, but I sure as hell don’t want to hear it. If Green was demonstrating his scorn for these bumpkins, I might give his a pass. Instead, Green loves these folks with all of his heart. That, I’m afraid, is an unforgivable crime.
If it seems like I have given scant attention to the story or characters of All the Real Girls, let me reiterate that most of what I have written feels like padding. There is literally nothing to say about these people, unless one wants to comb the thesaurus looking for words similar to dumbshit or cretin. I simply did not find it worth my time to watch these people grapple and sweat through what they believe are love affairs, only to produce even more genetically inferior children in the end. And, if the banality and insipid exchanges weren’t enough, there was Patricia Clarkson as Elvira, Paul’s mother, who works as a dancing clown in the local hospital. Jesus H. Christ, first you drive us mad with tedium, then you insist on freaking the shit out of us with two-stepping clowns? When Elvira and Paul dance together in the children’s ward, I knew this film was in the proverbial toilet.
So there it is: trailer trash, bowling alleys, cheap motels, and more bad grammar than an Oakland high school. Roger Ebert, I noticed, gave this horror show four stars (as he did George Washington), which is as mind-boggling as it is sad. Perhaps Green doesn’t read the Chicago Sun-Times, but I would prefer that he not receive any encouragement whatsoever. He has a talent, but not as a director or screenwriter. If he wants to work as a cinematographer, I would not object. He does seem to have an eye for pleasing images. It is when his characters open their mouths that we are in trouble.