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All the Real Girls
2003 - R - 108 Mins.
Director: David Gordon Green
Producer: Jean Doumanian, Lisa Muskat
Written By: David Gordon Green
Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Paul Schneider, Patricia Clarkson, Shea Whigham
Review by: Carl Langley

Scratch my back
The rock group Nazareth was right: love does hurt and love does scar. Love is not a simple emotion, but we all care to be in love. The deep affection renders an ideal sense about ourselves and allows us to feel honored. Love can also be a spiteful thing. Experiencing love for the first time can stir smitten feelings and lead to broken hearts in the act of disloyalty. 'All the Real Girls' generates all of these emotions wrapped into one passionate and sincere film.

'All the Real Girls' is one of the foremost, true-to-life romantic pictures to grace the screen in a very long time. Freshman writer Paul Schneider, along with director David Gordon Green, have carefully written two down-to-earth characters that find themselves in an unanticipated, disorienting relationship. Schneider plays one of the characters, Paul, a well-known womanizer who wants his next relationship with Noel (Zooey Deschanel) to go through the correct motions. The trouble is, Tip (Shea Whigham), Noel’s brother and Paul’s best friend, knows about Paul’s reputation to sleep with any girl that will do so and becomes unseeingly jealous. Noel, who has just returned home from boarding school, is aware of Paul’s betrayal as well, but willingly puts it behind her and focuses on the present.

Gordon has a lackadaisical approach at directing, which is very different from today’s typical director in Hollywood. Take the first scene, which begins with Paul and Noel standing in an alley staring at each other. It takes half a minute before a word is even said, but the silence is substantial to sensing the actual vibrations. This is not even half of the flair Gordon flashes. Gordon is a virtuoso at depicting the obscure facets of being infatuated. His ideas look at how confusing and despairing love can make us feel. 'All the Real Girls' does a wonderful job at understanding how being enamored with someone can cause unintended events and the consequences that have to be paid.

The dialogue is all natural and unprocessed. It is almost as if the lines were ad-libbed and not written in the script. Lines spoken with earnestness from people ecstatic by their newly discovered passion makes this film much more appreciable. There is one intelligent, artful scene where Paul and Noel are embracing each other in a bowling alley. Paul has the sudden urge to break out in a silly dance, just as long as Noel does not watch. She turns around and Paul lets loose; “I could do this for hours,” he claims. My stomach hurt I was laughing so hard. Point or no point, the scene was a nice breach from the intellectual mode.

I assume there is not a better way for a screenwriter to bring out the desired emotions of a character than to act as that character. Paul Schneider and his buddy Green wrote the part of Paul to fit Schneider’s character. Schneider, who also appeared in a small role in Green’s first unknown independent film George Washington, is convincing as the newfangled Paul, but his kindhearted charisma overshadows his treachery, making it hard to believe that he ever cheated on anyone.

Zooey Deschanel definitely turns in a stronger and stronger presence with each new performance. After watching her supporting roles in low-key comedies such as 'Almost Famous' and 'The Good Girl', I anxiously awaited the day she had her chance to really shine. The sexually inquisitive Noel was the perfect role for her and more than shows the strength that is need for a leading role. It will be interesting to see how her career pans out because she has the potential to win some awards in what is the most genuine performance of the year.

'All the Real Girls' is not flawless though, as one imperfection stands out. Many supporting characters are given room to develop early on, but in the end are forgotten. It seems the only ones to fully develop are Tip and Paul’s mother, Elvira (Patricia Clarkson), who literally knocks some sense into Paul at one point. Others such as Paul’s estranged uncle and two of Paul’s drinking buddies are left secluded. It might have been wiser to not try and expand on its supporters, egging us on to something that is never polished.

With that said though, 'All the Real Girls' is an insignia for how all romantic films should be. Even with tiny flaws, the film is able to bury itself so deep in reality that it is almost insuperable. We have all experienced love at least once in our lifetime, short lived or not. If not love, then we have been involved in a relationship similar to Paul and Noel’s. This is not to say all guys resemble Paul’s previous lifestyle (if this were the case, the world would be even more of an atrocity) and all girls resemble Noel. But everyone will undergo that deep affection and emotion for that special someone, and it may evolve into perfection, but it may not. All the Real Girls shows what happens when love, a rarity in the setting, is torn. What is a shame is that once love is scarred, it becomes unfaithful, leaving doubts that it will ever be found again.
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

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