Words On Film: Gigantic
Gigantic premiered in eleven U.S. theaters in April 2009 and ran for thirteen weeks grossing only just over $100,000. Its box-office draw and release record alone define it as a quintessential, no-backing, small-time indie film. Also, the movie stars Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) and the quirky and ubiquitous Zooey Deschanel. And it's about a dour, witty, but silent long-haired hipster guy who sells expensive Swedish mattresses during the day and seeks to adopt a Chinese baby in his free time. How's that for indie? Indie enough for you? Etc. All that and the fact that the script was a college creative-baby of the director combine to make something that is very nearly enjoyable, but seems thoroughly overinflated.
The viewing experience is at times unsettling. The colors are washed out, dry in an effort to reflect the ennui felt by Dano as he trudges through his day to day, 9 -5, boring, but completely off-beat life. A life which includes John Goodman appearing as an anti-Semitic, loud-mouth, wealthy mattress buyer, and his daughter played by Deschanel who just happens to come by to see the mattress and fall asleep on one of the beds. All of this garners little reaction from Dano whose preoccupation with international adoption, and how boring and unsatisfying his life is, prevents him from seeing that his life is exponentially more interesting than most. He even has a quirky scientist friend who talks sex and studies rats swimming (another billboard metaphor). And then therea quirky black mentor who has Dano give him a haircut. Dano's Brian just seems depressed because he doesn't have a path, and that theme for a movie, so plainly stated has grown a little long in the tooth. Dano and Deschanel fall for each other, and Deschanel propositions Dano for sex while the three take Goodman to a chiropractor. Every moment is quirky. Yes. Quirky! That's the theme here.
Gigantic then has the necessary complications such as relationship strife and questions of life-path/purpose. And as a film it's all very well and good, but Gigantic doesn't say as much as it thinks it does. The characters don't really grow, or change all that much. Instead, they are more or less just an assemblage of caricatures: hipster 20-something male, cute hipster rich-girl, mushroom growing-father, businessman older brother, mentor A, mentor B, sex-obsessed friend and so on. And all of these traditional archetypes are dressed edgily, shot in grainy, low-light, medium-long to make them seem deeper than they are. And then there's Zach Galifianakis as Dano's constant, brutal assailant who likely doesn't exist despite beating the male lead with a pipe, shooting him in the leg, and attacking him with a tire iron. (And his existence is never explained or even alluded to... so that's pretty quirky too.)
Despite all these issues, Gigantic isn't awful, it just isn't fun, or funny particularly (except for Goodman and then Ed Asner, playing Dano's father), which wouldn't matter if the film wasn't marketed as a comedy. Dano is actually very well suited for the role, and Deschanel gets by on charm and the way her big-eyes sell lines that don't make a lick of sense. Goodman and Asner are the biggest bright spots, though, which speaks to the elder-statemen's abilities to carry a rough script and have fun with it. If the film were not so bogged down in the indie-hipster themes that have dominated this quirky-comedy-drama genre since Wes Anderson did it right four times consecutively, and if Gigantic felt less heavy, less arbitrarily oppressive, it could have been a great film. Instead, it's a decent movie that tries really hard to convince viewers that it's a revelatory one.
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