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Jersey Girl
2004 - PG-13 - 107 Mins.
Director: Kevin Smith
Written By: Kevin Smith
Starring: Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Raquel Castro, Jason Biggs, George Carlin, Jason Lee (cameo), Matt Damon (cameo), Stephen Root, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, Will Smith (cameo as himself), Mike Starr
Review by: Joseph Kastner
Can the man who has created some of the most crude, vulgar, and offensive films in recent memory prove he has heart and yet retain a connection with the cult following his raunchy features have created? That is the question cult-director Kevin Smith is facing with the release of his new film, Jersey Girl. Smith has come a long way from his humble beginning working in a convenience store in his home state of New Jersey, the same place where he filmed his first movie, Clerks. After collecting nearly $27,000, Smith shot the film in the convenience store and premiered it at the Sundance Film Festival becoming one of the biggest highlights of the event. Once he struck up a distribution deal with Miramax, the then still relatively unknown independent studio, Smith completed work on Mallrats, which ended up being a complete dud. After publicly apologizing for the film, Smith bounced back in a big way with Chasing Amy, wowing both the critics and the public alike with his perceptive dialogue. With the controversial Dogma and critically lauded Jay & Silent Bob behind him, Kevin Smith hopes to return to the genre that made him prominent in the main stream world of filmmaking.

The story focuses on a man who once had everything in the world he could ask for but saw everything come falling down to Earth after the birth of his daughter. Ollie Trinke is one of the biggest music publicists in New York City and everything seems to be working perfectly for him. He has a well paid job, a beautiful wife, and a brand new child on the way. It seems as though nothing could wrong – until one day it does. Struggling with the concept of being a single father after the death of his wife and a hectic career on top of that, Ollie snaps at a large press event and ends up losing his dream job. With nothing left for him besides his infant daughter, he moves back to New Jersey with his father and for the next seven years takes up grunge work in which he finds no contentment in. In those seven years Ollie’s only priority is his daughter and remains in a continual rut until one night while renting movies from the video store he meets Maya. After bantering him about renting a porno and being caught by little Gertie in the act, Maya strikes up a close friendship with the reflective father, who still dreams of the life he once had. When he has the opportunity to return to the life he has missed for seven years, Ollie must decide whether to be return to the life he believes is still waiting for him or be happy with the life he has now. The story for Jersey Girl, like that of Chasing Amy, is full of rich, discerning dialogue that audiences have come to love from Kevin Smith, with the vulgarity toned down a tad (note the word “tad”). Though the plot treads on the line of predictability, the conservative message it expresses and the importance it lays on the issue of family makes the whole thing worth while.

There are several things to expect from a Kevin Smith film, one of which includes a well-stocked cast that includes several familiar faces from his previous films. That remains true for this film although they are mainly pushed to the background, with the exception of lead man Ben Affleck. Before focusing on anything else, let’s get the most prominent subject out of the way … Unless you had serious problems with the chemistry between Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck in Gigli (we’re talking recursive nightmares here), any complaints should remain at a minimum as the two are only together for about eight minutes on screen and don’t present mis-matchment in that time frame. Despite certain moments of relative dryness, Affleck’s performance on screen doesn’t a problem at all on screen and shouldn’t for anyone outside of those who hate the man going into the film. Raquel Castro accentuates on screen with a wonderfully balanced chemistry with Ben Affleck and properly illustrated connection with several supporting members of the cast. The main emphasis on this talented young actress has to be the look she presents on screen, which is a somewhat eerily reflection of a childlike version of Jennifer Lopez. This effect stresses the message that Smith tries to get across within the plot of the film. Though the sequence barely makes a dent within the nearly two hour feature, the selective and well construed conversation between Will Smith and Affleck’s Ollie Trinke brings every point Smith attempts to get across in this film all into one cumulative moment. The whole piece feels so honest and realistic that audience members can truly understand the meaning that is presented in this conversational moment.

Overall, despite lacking the bite and edginess that Kevin Smith’s features are known for, Jersey Girl showcases not only his talented writing ability but his belief in the value of the family and its importance in life as well. No doubt several “Jay & Silent Bob” fanatics will come out of this ranting on how Smith has sold-out but if that’s true then perhaps Smith is the only true one within the ViewAskew universe that has matured. Granted the film is far from perfect with the cinematography being off at times, the plot trailing off every so often into the obscure realm of predictability and the musical score not working with the actions on screen, this despite the fact that several songs used worked much better. So what should make you go see this film out in theatres? Its message. In the modern world where society has been taught that the most important element in life is success and anything else prior to that must take a backseat, Smith recalls the values we once had prior to the Hilary-esque village concept. Family, most importantly the children, must be the most essential part of a person’s life and nothing; absolutely nothing should come before that. Smith also emphasizes the idea most prominent in The Great Gatsby in that although many of us would love to return to the life we had in the past, realistically we know that’s not going to happen and giving up on an unobtainable dream to focus on the present reality isn’t always the life of quiet desperation. Not necessarily Kevin Smith’s most fanatically successful film but showcases maturity in the realm of filmmaking.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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