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Archive for March 31st, 2004

Jersey Girl review (WARNING – some spoilers)

by on Mar.31, 2004, under Reviews


I managed to see Jersey Girl tonight, and have to say, I disagree with a lot of the bad press it got. There’s multiple reasons, and I’ll get into all of that, but I’ll just say this – it had a few major messages to deliver, it delivered it well, and was well done, overall. I’m impressed with the subtlety of the messages, the way things were said and done, the humor, just in general, I found it to be a very good movie. I think almost every artist has something to say with their creation, even if it’s only to the artist him or herself. There’s definitely a lot of messsages in a lot of Kevin Smith’s movies, but this is one of the most prominently positioned set of messages I’ve seen yet from him. Yet, even that prominence belies a subtlty that was distinctly lacking in some of his earlier films, in that a lot of the humor and messages could be found through references or hints that if you blinked, you missed. Anyways, on to a few direct notes on the movie.

First, the whole Ben-Lo thing. Lopez’s character dies within the first 15 minutes of the movie. And I’m VERY glad this happens, as she was really starting to get on my nerves with her whining. Seriously, she needs to stop talking or something, or stop being annoying. I haven’t seen too many other movies with her in it, but this one was enough to sour my stomach. On the other hand, she did have a few lines that I think too many people don’t listen to. One of the biggest is this, for all the working people out there. Ben Afleck’s character is a work-aholic. He works late into the evenings, is busy as all hell, etc. The scene that really came into play on this, and was the one really redeeming part for Lopez (and only part that was decent, in my opinion), was a lamazze class. Ben Afleck shows up really late, after the class is letting out, and Lopez is like, you realize – you’ve got a family now, no working till 9pm at night, no missing out on classes, etc. Ben Afleck stops, and says OK. The thing is, so many American’s are like Ben Afleck – we work like crazy, but don’t stop to look at what’s important. We keep working on what we think will make us happy, on our careers, our individual lives, but then ignore stuff that’s really important – our families, our friends, life outside of work. That one message kinda comes in at several places in the movie.

Second, and this really applies to the whole movie, is the level of humor. People were commenting on the lack of typical Kevin Smith humor, but it really is there. It’s a lot more subtle, but it’s definitely there. The thing is, it’s not blatant in your face. It’s a line, or an action that represents his humor, and it’s through-out the whole movie. That humor keeps the movie going in a lot of places, getting past some of the serious stuff that he focus’s on more heavily in comparison to his other movies. And keep in mind, this movie in many ways is much more serious than Chasing Amy – perhaps one of the bigger “message” movies of Kevin Smiths.

Third, after some most amusing sequences of seeing how nuts guys can be while dealing with childbirth, and example of that humor, (and we can be nuts – I know I’m nuts enough normally to not want to imagine me in that situation!), there’s some interesting look at loss. I’ve not been married before, but I’ve definitely been in love, and I know what it means to lose love. I’m not sure if I’d handle it like Ben Afleck did, but I see aspects of myself in how he responded, as I would think most guys would, or most anyone would. There are of course some things he really screws up on, that I would like to think I wouldn’t screw up on, but it’s still a powerful message to send. Loss is a hard thing to deal with, and you never really get over certain losses. Lisa Hanewinkel I believe said it best one time – whenever someone leaves you, they take a piece of you with them. Usually, it’s your favorite piece. That’s really what loss is about – when you care for someone so much, that you make them a part of you in some indescribable way, and when they’re gone, it’s like you feel empty, lost, like losing a hand or a limb or one of your senses. You keep looking for it, but it’s not there, keep trying to use it, but it’s not there, and not having it there hurts. It’s a pain that never really goes away, but just fades over time. This theme of loss we see through most of the movie, and it’s a message that’s described really well, and shown in many different aspects.

The last major aspect I’ll touch on tonight, that hit me hard, was the concept of looking at your life, and what you’re going for. This is a poor representation of what was really said in the movie, and really expressed so eloquently and well by Kevin Smith. But, here’s my best attempt to explain it. Ben Afleck was so focused on his career, his life, that when all of a sudden it got railroaded, he got put off track. For the next seven years of his life, and we see this in multiple examples throughout the movie, he tries to get his old life back. He keeps trying and trying, but he doesn’t realize that things have changed. He’s looking in the past, seeing his past life, and thinking that’s what he wants. He never stops to look at what he has, what he has become, and his present life. He’s so wrapped up in what he thinks he wants, he doesn’t look at what he has, and how wonderful it is. It made an impression on me, because I think a lot of us are like that. We all have these goals set out for ourselves, college, a good paying job, families, etc. that we never stop, look at maybe where our life is at, value what is in our life. Yes, we should work towards a better future in a lot of ways, but trying to change everything in your life for some mystical happiness may not really get you happiness. Living your life, not trying to live a dream is more important, and really is what life is about. Yes, plan for the future, have a goal, but don’t stop living your life, to try and live another. LIVE. That’s the biggest message. There’s no real words to describe how powerful that message for me was, or how it was expressed so well by the movie and the direction and the script, but the message is there, and I HIGHLY recommend seeing it, to see if you get the same message, or perhaps something slightly different. As said, I don’t have the proper words to describe, other than to say it’s a powerful message I think we should take to heart, and it’s one that I haven’t seen too often.

So, as a closing note, GO SEE IT. It is worth it, in my opinion. There’s a lot of good scenes, a lot of things well done. It does have the tradiitonal Kevin Smith humor, but just in a different way than his previous direct in your face style. It’s a refreshing change, and one that has a lot of advantages, particularly when you consider he’s really in many ways trying to tell us something. I think he’s always had a message in all of his movies, but before the humor was the most important, the message secondary. Now, it’s the message that’s more important and the humor which is subtle. It’s an interesting shift, and I’m curious to see future movies of his, to see how he balances things out. Enough of me babbling, and taking up huge amounts of space. Go see the movie, enjoy, and let me know what you think.

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