A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Yeah, it’s kind of a Zooey Deschanel love fest…

In Actors, drama on August 4, 2009 at 6:14 am

I can’t help it. At least in this way, I’m like just about every other normal guy in civilization (and the guys that aren’t don’t know what they’re missing) who falls to their knees at the sight of Zooey Deschanel. I wrote pretty extensively – and with these blog posts, what don’t I write extensively about – about her and what’s attractive to me, about her; in my post about (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. So, going on from there, I went on kind of a “Zooey-spree” and found two other, indie movies where she also plays eccentric (moreso than in SUMMER) characters – but still manages to sing!

I searched (scoured) Netflix, looking for her movies and only a few are available to watch instantly. Two of them are her small role in the show WEEDS, where she plays the hippie (is hippy with a “Y” also acceptable for the people from the sixties, or is that just for describing a body type?) ex-girlfriend, of another character (I love the show, but I’m just trying to not get into it right now…more important things to discuss, and all that.) and also the cinema classic, THE NEW GUY, starring DJ Squalls and Eddie Griffin (which is not even worth going into). Then there were two other movies; one I had heard of previously (and forgot about) and even saw the trailer for; and the other, I’d seen the case in Blockbuster, or wherever, but seemed generic and I never saw it.

The first is a movie called GIGANTIC. It’s by first time writer and director Matt Aselton and stars Paul Dano, you know who, John Goodman, Ed Asner and Zach Galifianakis – in a role that is…incredible. It’s the story of Brian Weathersby (Dano), and he’s a mattress salesman in a warehouse store, that sells beds that cost $14,000. One day a large man comes in with a homosexual assistant, and they test out said bed (nothing illicit, just laying down) and agree to purchase it, with the large man, named Al Lolly (Goodman), saying that he’ll send his girl with the money. When she shows up, it’s you know who, playing the role of Harriet – but called “Happy” – and when she tests the bed, she falls asleep for a number of hours. After she leaves, we get scenes of Brian visiting a friend who is a scientist, experimenting on rats and survival instinct – and also drinking numerous oddly colored substances. He gets beaten up by a homeless guy – like an actual knock-down, drag-out fight – played by Galifianakis.

Brian is also attempting to adopt a baby from China. And we get a couple of scenes of him dealing with a case manager, getting offered the chance to buy a baby on the black market, and ultimately kind of forgetting about it because of his involvement with Happy, her family, his family and, strangely enough, the reappearance of said homeless guy (in a couple different outfits and disguises) kicking the crap out of him.

From what I read, the movie is based around the writer’s desire when he was a child for his parents to adopt an Asian baby, so he had someone to play with. In the movie, it’s pointed out that perhaps Brian wants a baby because his own family is actually quite older than he is. His father (Asner) celebrates his 80th birthday, and his two brothers (Robert Stanton and Ian Roberts) are substantially older than he is. So, he’s a bit of an outcast, with his scientist friend and the guys at the mattress store being his main companions. The mattress guys are meant to be eccentric on their own. There’s the African American man, played by Clarke Peters (“Damages” and MARLEY & ME *ugh*) who like Romany Falco’s role in THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, speaks inappropriately to white people using certain phrases and whatnot, that I’m sure would be uncomfortable were it to happen in real life. And there’s a guy, Kevin Blue (played by Daniel Stewart Sherman), who when he walks up to people says, “Hey what’s up dude, not much.”

Eventually, Brian and “Happy” develop a relationship, which includes sex in a car while her dad’s at the chiropractor, and skinny dipping in a pool. There’s also some hinting at “Happy”‘s  never being able to have accomplished anything, and in certain moments I half-expected her to be revealed to be mentally-deficient in some way. But, instead it’s just a flakiness that her character has from being in a wealthy family, and not being challenged to do anything. While, naturally looking nice and being cute. In the end, it’s a talk that she gets from Brian’s mother (who is played by Jane Alexander – previously mentioned in the ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN post, and is marvelous here as well.), where she reveals to “Happy” that everything is not “fucked up” and gives her the nurturing guidance that “Happy”‘s own mother couldn’t, or wouldn’t.

Altogether, it’s a good enough movie. Dano, while being fairly un-charismatic, does good in this role of a young man who feels alone in the world and is trying to do good things, like take care of a child. The eccentric characters that surround him, and the semi-frequent and completely unexplained appearances of Galifianakis’ character, are what help to keep you watching. The style of the movie is also simple, but sweet for the most part. There’s also some cool shots of John Goodman, who has to be transported around lying in the back of a car with his head staring out the back window.

For Zooey, it seems like the kind of role and movie, that allowed her to be kind of glamorous – in that vintage chic, that has never seen the inside of a vintage clothing store – act strange and be justified in doing so, while still being endearing.

(Watching the trailer, before posting it, I realized that I could have really written this post, only having seen the trailer. But, take heart, I did watch it and there are funnier, and better parts than what’s shown.)

The other, and far superior movie is called THE GOOD LIFE, and is again by first time writer/director Stephen Berra. The movie is about Jason, a young man who lives in Nebraska; working at a gas station by day – with another guy, played by Patrick Fugit (you know, ALMOST FAMOUS!) and by night he helps an old man run a classic movie theater. The old man, named Gus and played wonderfully by Harry Dean Stanton, is suffering from Dementia and forgets to pop the popcorn and where he puts his TV. Jason’s father dies at the beginning of the movie – we don’t even see him – and his mother (Deborah Rush) seemingly has no money as there’s the possibility of their electricity being turned off. A couple of times there’s mention of Jason’s “travel fund” in order to help out his family – who also includes sister, played by Drea de Matteo (“The Sopranos”) and her husband, played by Donal Logue.

One night at the movie theater – which doesn’t really ever seem to be that busy, because it only shows classic movies; like THE GREAT DICTATOR and IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – a man and a woman come in to buy tickets. The woman, of course is Zooey, playing the role of Frances, and the man is Gus, played by Bill Paxton. Naturally, Jason finds himself attracted to Frances, and then she starts showing up to the theater more often – and on days when it’s closed. She has a couple of great moments where she confesses to having lied to Jason about things, and bemoans her not wanting him to hate her. (She first confesses this, because she thinks that Jason is dying – which is something I’m just going to leave hanging there, because it’s…strange.) Again, her character comes off as being a little “not all there in the head”, and I have to say by the end, I’m confused as to whether it was a ploy that she was pretending, or she wasn’t. But, it doesn’t matter, because it’s Zooey Deschanel, and look at her cute button nose, and how she sings.

Then, much like in GIGANTIC, Jason is repeatedly terrorized by a strange person – this time in the guise of a former high school football star who charges around town in a souped up muscle car, and a strange eye thing in one of his eyes. This character is played by, a virtually unrecognizable in look and speech, Chris Klein (That’s right, the AMERICAN PIE guy.) He’s fantastic here, where he randomly busts out with freestyle rap and for whatever unknown reason chases Jason down and beats him up.

Jason, is played by Mark Webber (not the director of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, but has been in a few other things like BROKEN FLOWERS with Bill Murray), who in the movie looks nothing like the other photos I’ve seen of him. Here, he looks kind of like a cross between Michael Cera and Powder. He’s quiet and passive, but you feel for him and the difficult decision he’s in with his family and the town he lives in.

Of course, this is played up, because the opening of the movie is actually the camera following who we can assume to be Jason, walking down the middle of the street, with a gun in his hand – narrating about the effects of a snub-nosed .357 Magnum, placed in a person’s mouth. He comes to a group of people, where Klein’s character is sitting on the hood of his car, and we see the gun rise; the screen goes dark and the gun fires. At the end of the movie, we get the same scene, but we get to see what happens next.

Where as GIGANTIC was kind of swaddled in the excess and warmness of people living comfortably and able to afford their eccentricities, here we get the other side of the coin. No one in this movie – well, except one family – is well off, or seemingly well-adjusted. Jason’s mother, on the night that their electricity is shut off – and not seemingly that long after her husband has died – is out with another man, who buys her new cowboy boots and takes her dancing. Gus’ condition is worsening and he’s even forgetting who Jason is. Frances calls on Christmas for him to meet her, and tells him the story of when she was married before.

And it’s in the last twenty minutes of the movie, that things take a turn for the worse. Paxton’s character mysteriously, and kind of creepily, shows up again and offers Jason a ride. He says they need to make a detour, before taking Jason home – and then something is revealed; that again makes me question where Zooey’s character is coming from, and we find out what’s happened to her, or where she is. And finally, the reveal of the gun shot…It’s not what you think, and the end amazingly enough ends on a happy and life-affirming note.

It’s actually a great movie, that could have been marketed better and found an audience. I admit that this movie, I only chose to watch to fulfill my Zooey quota – I didn’t actually have any plans to write about her further, before watching this movie – but now, I’m sorry that I hadn’t seen it before now! I think that it ranks right up there with the indie-quirky dramas that I’ve been writing about from LITTLE CHILDREN to THE VISITOR and even (500) DAYS OF SUMMER.


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