Jersey Girl

Monday, September 17, 2007

Conventional wisdom would suggest that any film that kills off J-Lo within the opening ten minutes would be an enjoyable experience. But alas, not even the speedy death of Jenny from the Block can prevent Jersey Girl from being anything but a miserable ordeal.

It would be unwise to expect cinematic excellence from such a talentless director as Kevin Smith, but Jersey Girl sees the corpulent one plumb new depths. For example, the film sees J-Lo playing a book editor (can the woman even read?). And on top of that she's called Gertrude and she wears a bizarre granny-style hairdo. But despite this, she wins the affections of ol' horseface Ben Affleck. And no sooner can you regurgitate your lunch and weep 'Gigli' than J-Lo is knocked up. Cue the customary birth scene with lots of screaming (hasn't this scene been done to absolute death? Smith could have at least made her a Scientologist and made things more interesting by having the dozy woman keep her trap shut). But then after the usual theatrics, J-Lo pops her clogs. But instead of inducing tears or laughs, the moment falls completely flat. We simply don't give a damn about the woman, and Smith is so bland a filmmaker that he can't even make it an unintentional laugh riot.

After this, Affleck becomes the cartoon embodiment of a selfish father. He has no time for his kid, foisting it on his pops (although I can hardly blame him, as the baby seems to be cross-eyed), and immerses himself in his job as a publicist. And then in a hideous scene, he insults a large press core and loses his job. You just know that some important life lessons are hiding around the corner, ones that can only be delivered by a sickeningly cute child.

We then skip forward seven years. Affleck is no longer living in New York and has moved back to Jersey to live and work with his father, and would you Adam and Eve it, he loves his kid. Now for most films of this type, that would be enough – the bonding (thankfully) has occurred off screen. But unfortunately, Affleck still holds deeply worrying ideas. He actually wants to move back to New York. He actually wants his old job back. He actually wants to earn more money than he gets as a sanitation worker. Oh what a misguided fool he is.

What's most infuriating about Jersey Girl is the way you have to watch a grown man get bullied by his daughter. You see, the cute little kid wants her dad to stay in Jersey. She wants her dad to continue his ambitionless existence, because as we all know, careers are something to be deeply suspicious off. Yes, much better to do a crap job and earn a pittance. Didn't you know, there's nobility in poverty.

And the kid even ends up getting her own way. Forced to choose between a job interview and a school pageant (would you believe it, they happen on the same day! Didn't see that coming, did you?), Affleck chooses the latter. Of course, this is meant to warm our hearts. The cold, uncaring beast has finally seen the light and abandoned all his hopes and dreams in favour of his offspring. But how long will the joy last? Probably until the kid becomes a teenager, gets knocked up and needs daddy to pay for an abortion. Maybe then she'll finally understand the importance of daddy working a job that pays more than minimum wage.

But I really do hate the cliché of adults gaining life lessons from children. What can you learn from a kid? Answer: nothing. Children are just selfish sub-humans who have the manners of a hog, the attention span of a goldfish and the intellect of a titmouse. They're not Yoda.

Almost as bad as the children in this movie are the women. Not only do you have to put up with J-Lo, but you have to endure Liv Tyler as an empowered, sexually aggressive video store clerk. Pur-lease. In what kind of world does an attractive woman want to have sex with you because you have a cute child who confesses that her mummy is dead? Only in the movies. And no sooner has Affleck met Tyler's character than she's telling him how often she masturbates and asking him about his sex life. Of course, she does this under the pretence of working on a study, but this thinly-veiled excuse for Tyler's behaviour is disposed of almost immediately. It's obvious that Smith just wants to be 'risqué' (it's also obvious that he hasn't got a clue about women) and that he wants to set up a 'hilarious' scene where Affleck's daughter catches her daddy almost getting it on. Oh my aching sides.

But Smith's attempt at emotion is even less successful than his comedy. At the end, after the customary race to the school pageant (will he make it on time?!?), father and daughter sing together on stage (they sing a piece from Sweeny Todd, which looks remarkably professional for a school production). At first the audience doesn't know how to react, but then, would you believe it, there's the slow clap and the audience bursts into applause. This is somehow meant to make us feel warm and fuzzy, as is the moment at the end where Affleck tells his daughter that they're going to live in Jersey in cash-strapped, beer-soaked oblivion, but I could only ponder a possible future where Affleck's pregnant wife had been run down by an eighteen-wheeler. Surely he would have been better off.

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  1. WOW! You are by far THEE smartest person I've EVER seen write a review on a movie! Jersey Girl is by far one of THEE worst excuse for a film I have ever had the displeasure of seeing and you hit the nail RIGHT on the head! Thank you for being so wonderfully honest about this horrid film! You kick major butt! -Rayn