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After reading the comments and reviews on this page for the film
Gigantic, I felt compelled to register an account on IMDb and add my
own voice to the apparently confused chorus. My reaction to the film
itself was strong, but not nearly as strong as my reaction to the
comments people have been adding to this page. If I had gone to check
IMDb site for the film before seeing it, as I usually do, I probably
would have been turned off by the low rating and negative comments, and
wouldn't have ended up seeing this little gem of a film. And that would
have been too bad, because it really is a nice little film; One that
has qualities that apparently inspire vitriol in some viewers, but
their anger and 'disappointment' just bewilders me.
What is not to like in this film? The cast is amazing. The performances are top-notch and completely appropriate for the tone that director Aselton is trying to create. I've read comments that have mentioned 'believability' of certain scenes and plot points, but I think these types of viewers were doomed to misunderstand the film from the very beginning (and isn't it always these viewers who do choose to comment? bashing on what they don't understand). And that's not even to say this is some kind of elitist 'quirky indie' film as most people suggest. It's to the point now where 'quirky' is just another derogatory and pejorative term for something outside the realm of someone's expectations, experience, and capability of understanding. It's a term the narrow-minded use.
Gigantic is well worth your time and money. It's shot beautifully. It has some great performances that create genuine laughs, not from absurdity for its own sake or from cheesy one-liners, but from the performance choices themselves and from the character development. Did I mention Matt Walsh was great as well? The whole cast is wonderful, and I personally look forward to whatever Aselton does next.
Refreshing for a first time director, Matt Aselton has managed to bring
a new dimension to the acting repertoire of his leads, Zooey Deschanel,
Paul Dano, and veteran, John Goodman.
Deschanel in particular shines brightly in Gigantic, as a privileged, underachieving heiress who is facing up to becoming a woman evidenced in the empathy her character, 'Happy', somehow manages to elicit.
Gigantic certainly plays against gender expectations, as Deschanel's love interest, Dano, looks to fix a situation in order to mend himself, indeed, this is a chick flick that should also appeal to guys; funny, rude, touching, violent, gentle, brutal, kindly, inconsiderate.
Once you overcome the gimmick of the unique premise mattress salesman who wants to adopt a Chinese baby this really becomes an enjoyable watch, peppered with cool, sharp dialog and seasoned with warm, elevated charm. It is a movie in which the viewer is invited to contemplate how inner turmoil can be overcome if one doesn't give up on what one wants.
Shot in 35mm, it is also a beautiful thing to behold, and with a soundtrack (scored by Roddy Bottum) that includes Animal Collective, there is much about Gigantic which stays with the viewer long after its conclusion not least the movie's Fight Club character: as Zach Galifianakis portrays a brutal representation of disconnection.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The dictionary defines 'Gigantic' as 'Giant-like in size or stature.'
So this film's title is presumably ironic - if any one movie could be
described as an Anti-epic, it's Gigantic, the kind of mumbling,
lank-haired, achingly self-conscious indie rom-com that gives mumbling,
lank-haired, achingly self-conscious indie rom-coms a bad name.
Gigantic is like prima facie evidence for non-believers: 'this is why indie films suck. Nothing makes sense. The plots are in-jokes. The in-jokes lack punchlines. The romantic leads are repellent oddballs who speak in stilted voices.' Here, they come in the executive producer-friendly shape of Zooey Deschanel - truly, the Katy Perry of Indiewood, and Bud Cort-alike Paul Dano, the pale and interesting girl's poster boy of choice. They're kooky! And altogether ooky.
Did we mention that the title was ironic? A little shuffling weed of a movie Gigantic may be, but it does deal in giant-sized subjects: first love; starting a family; being forcibly chucked in at the deep end of maturity. Stuff which, in accordance with indie practice, is subject to the usual arch detachments. But by obtusely refusing to even paddle in the emotional or dramatic depths, Gigantic renders itself utterly insipid and almost totally pointless. Irony is a sweet poison. It must be handled with care.
Paul Dano is Brian, a cow-eyed shoe-gazer from a family of high achievers. He flogs high-end mattresses from a New York warehouse showroom resembling the gritty unit HQ from 'The Wire' - so much so, there's even Clarke Peters (The Wire's Lester Freamon) flopping out in the corner. Has the Curse Of The Wire struck again? After Dominic West in 'Hannibal Rising', short-lister for Worst Film of 2007, and Idris Elba in 'Obsessed', contender for Worst Film of the Decade, the evidence is mounting up.
Into this nest of slackers drops John Goodman's larger-than-life exec Al Lolly, who is looking for a quality mattress to fix his chronic back problem. Al sends his Bambi-eyed virginal daughter Harriet (Zooey Deschanel) along afterwards to settle up. Brian gets it on with Harry - or 'Happy' (yeah it's ironic). Brian reveals he's been trying to adopt a Chinese baby since he was 8-years-old. Happy gets cold feet and bails out - the most realistic move she's made so far, given that this is a virgin who potters round her dad's house in a modified bunny girl outfit, answers the door in a dressing gown that barely covers her assets, and strong-arms this Mogadon-magnet into the back seat of her daddy's car with the artless phrase "Do you have any interest in having sex with me?" after five minutes of meeting. Can a certain two-foot high Deus ex Machina reunite them? And will Brian ever shrug off that psychotic Gilliam-esquire hobo who's been stalking and knocking the jenny out of him for no good reason from the start?
"This has been going on for a long time" groans Brian, following another beating from that clearly imaginary, ferociously metaphorical homeless guy. Viewers may feel like blurting out the same in the face of a movie so tiresomely quirky and exasperatingly aloof that at a modest 98 minutes feels three times the length.
Gigantic wants to be a Sundance movie so badly it hurts. Unfortunately, the absence of silly bourgeois trifles like heart, charm, or even wit, prevents its elevation to the status of a 'Secretary', 'Juno' or 'Little Miss Sunshine.' The latter's Dano, one of the most fearless young actors working today (let alone 'There Will Be Blood', check out 2001's 'L.I.E.' for some early, brilliant promise) is essentially muzzled here, as Deschanel competes for the distinction of most catatonic cat.
When Jane Alexander, playing Brian's mum, finally shows up at the end to talk some sense into Happy, it's like a jet of cool, cleansing water blasting away all that obfuscating mud. Yet almost it spite of itself, the film does articulate certain contemporary truths: in Gigantic world, sex is snatched at by adults with the psychological makeup of children; while parents are leading infinitely more fascinating lives than their offspring. The great Ed Asner and John Goodman, playing Brian and Happy's dads respectively, tear up the screen every time they appear, whether hunting for magic mushroom or hawking up their own brain tumours by willpower alone. They're not remotely realistic either, but at least they're better value than the leads, numbed by life. Those two review stars are for Asner and Goodman - one each. But it's two more stars than the film deserves.
Want a fantastic, unselfconsciously quirky indie rom-com about emotionally blunted, poor little rich kids finally facing up to life? Try 'Harold And Maude.' Gigantic needs overhauling from the direction down.
Greetings again from the darkness. I thrive on indie films and am
always anxious when a first time director manages to break through the
politics and red tape and gain distribution for his/her pet project.
The debut from Matt Aselton is far from perfect, but certainly provides
high expectations for his next film.
Blessed with a terrific cast including Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood), indie favorite Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, and veterans Ed Asner and Jane Alexander; Aselton creates some odd characters that somehow connect not only to each other, but also to the viewing audience.
The film does sometimes suffer from the mistake of many first time filmmakers ... inclusion of scenes that have always been in the mind of the writer/director, but just don't quite fit in the context of the film. The brutal attacks/images by the homeless guy (played by comedian Zach Galifianakis) and the massage parlor scene are two that jump to mind.
On the other hand, and more importantly, there are a few scenes that are remarkable and really provide hope for Aselton's next film: When Zooey first awakens from her nap in the store, she and Dano have an exchange that sets the stage for their relationship; the family dinner without Zooey; John Goodman on his kitchen floor and at the doctor; Jane Alexander on the balcony with Zooey proves what an effective and elegant actress Ms. Alexander remains as she is the first one to connect with Zooey on an adult level. These all result from the creative mind an eye of Mr. Aselton and have set the bar high for his next outing.
"Gigantic's" main protagonist is twenty-eight year old Brian - a
morose, mumbling, monosyllabic mattress salesman. Some jaded film-goers
might feel they've witnessed Paul Dano portraying this character's
clone on several previous occasions, and met Brian's charisma-free
loner cousins overplaying their sensitivity and quirkiness in far too
many Indie projects. In 'Gigantic' Brian possesses the stubborn
ambition to adopt a Chinese baby - a plot contrivance which appears
principally designed to conceal his stupefying dullness. Despite being
single, earning little money and suffering from violent hallucinations,
he considers himself good parent material - and some irresponsible
adoption agency (that could only exist in an Indie universe) seems to
The story begins when Al Lolly, an overweight businessman with chronic back problems, visits the gloomy mattress warehouse where Brian is employed. Big Al purchases a top-of-the-line item and later sends his beautiful daughter to settle the bill. When she arrives on the scene, it's soon apparent that Happy Lolly equals Brian in the quirky troubled department. She asks him to help transport her father to a chiropractic appointment, and while the oddball soul-mates wait for Al to conclude his treatment, Happy casually inquires whether Brian would be interested to have sex with her. He doggedly obliges in the underground car park - and so it comes to pass that the loony lovers embark on their lukewarm love affair. If truth be told, the romance doesn't amount to much - almost immediately Happy expresses her neuroses with lame attempts to escape the relationship, while Brian continues on his doleful way obsessing about Chinese babies. Like it or leave it - that's how love is in Indie-World.
'Gigantic's' script is a strangely schizophrenic beast - the main narrative arc is the lovers' moth-eaten romance, but the rest of the dialog contains some offbeat black humor, providing John Goodman, Ed Asner, Jane Alexander, Clarke Peters and Zooey Deschanel with the raw material to create some authentically original characters. Somehow, mysteriously, their combined talents just manage to keep 'Gigantic' afloat while Dano impersonates a sack of potatoes in the central role.
Incredible cast wasted in this tiresome indie comedy that wears its quirks like lead balloons. Pseudo clever dialog and over the top characters combine with heavy handed symbolism making this one a tough slog for even the most undiscriminating fan of independent film. Precious and pompous, it's one of the worst examples in recent memory of the kind of trite self important spew that exists in the fevered imaginations of hundreds of interchangeable film school grads and Wes Anderson wannabes. After too many of these you'll find yourself screaming back to the multiplex and begging for a Hollywood blockbuster to erase the memory.
I'm surprised at the so many negative reviews that Matt Aselton's
'Gigantic' received, as I found it to be quite a charming, funny,
absorbing and well-made little film. I suppose not everyone appreciates
subtle storytelling and that much of 'Gigantic' is open to
interpretation (for example the homeless man, whom I interpreted as
The quirky premise may appear a little awkward on the surface. I can see why some people interpret it as 'a cry for attention' but the film does not dwell on that. It's very story oriented and focuses on issues such as family relationships and growing up. The characters are quirky but easy to identify with. The sharp dialogues are wonderful and funny.
'Gigantic' is a well made film. The soundtrack and cinematography are a good fit. Soundtrack itself is worth a buy. The art direction is toned down. Aselton tones down the colour to give it a cold look as the warmth is expressed in the interactions of the characters. The lighting is used efficiently.
The cast has done a commendable job. Even though many have disliked Paul Dano's performance (most of them commenting that he wasn't quirky enough), I felt quite the contrary. He downplays the part very well. Zooey Deschanel is nothing short of excellent. Even though she has played similar characters before, her approach to playing Happy is very different. John Goodman, Ed Asner and Jane Alexander and Zack Galifianakis are great.
Aselton's debut is a fun and absorbing watch and it lingers in mind long after the end credits have rolled....though perhaps it's not for everyone given the negativity, but so what. For me it was worth the chance.
Gigantic is an eccentric film about two oddball families. Brian is
bored with his job of selling mattresses and is obsessed with adopting
a Chinese baby. Despite having loving parents and supportive brothers
he cannot relate to them and lives alone frugally in an apartment.
Harriet or Happy who walks into Brian's showroom one day and falls
asleep on a mattress has a dysfunctional family with a loud mouth
hypochondriac father, an estranged disconnected mother and a
self-centered older sister. Brian and Harriet are drawn to each other
sexually but cannot connect emotionally and the Chinese baby only makes
Alternately comical and melancholic this surreal story is about people managing their angst. The exact reasons for Brian's anxiety are not stated but it is possibly because he was brought accidentally into this world by his parents.
There is a bizarre subplot in which a homeless man stalks Brian and keeps attacking him without any purpose. The discerning few can easily see this as a subtext for the demons of self-doubt tormenting Brian's mind. For others it could be an annoying red herring.
It is a film that will make you feel good if you have cracked the subplot.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sometimes a movie comes along that makes the worst movie I've ever seen previously seem to have been not so bad. Gigantic is one of those movies. Lousy acting, lousy dialog, lousy plot, stupid throughout, with no rhyme, or reason. I've heard that if we were to put a hundred monkeys in a room full of typewriters, that they would eventually produce a screen play. Too bad that the folks behind this piece of dung did not use more monkeys. While it is obvious that the current crowd in the film-making business are attempting to excel in garbage and foist if off on the general public as art, it is equally obvious that nobody with half a brain can find even one redeeming quality in this movie... (Except for those who produced it who have sold it to the rental for big bucks and will receive praises from other film-making idiots who think that praising garbage is the thing to do. th vomiting in the film pretty much describes my feelings about Gigantic! Aaarrgghhh!!!
The fashionable movies these days rely on finding an edge in convention
and dangling a foot in the unknown waters on the other side. Wes
Anderson and Jason Reitman and Judd Apatow are practitioners of this
dynamic. The strategy is plain, with the skill coming from the
So far, those three have done nothing but take a stable genre and story form and walk it to its edge. There is amusement along the way. I like these. But they don't go deep. They are afraid to hurt. We've had a few years of this now and already the technique has become the default in the least valuable of films: romantic comedies.
What we need is someone who knows how to find that edge and go to it. Someone who doesn't just dip a toe, but who jumps back and forth fearlessly carrying back insight. We need more Igby from the other side, but brought back.
This young filmmaker is just what I hoped for. The filmmaking is assured. The arcs are broken as intended. It suitably confuses the newspaper critics. It hurts in places.
I won't fall into the trap of summarizing what is shown, because what matters is what is not shown. Its the empty spaces in the narrative.
Why is someone familiar beating up our hero? Who is this endearing, broken soul that Zooey plays? What role does that gay guy play, the guy we meet at the beginning and never see again? What are those lines that seduce, are never said, but are remarked on as if they need not be?
There is a fold here: the sister runs a TeeVee shopping show; Zooey's character helps in an unknown way. In keeping with the gaps, we never know where the fold goes. There is a device from a standard romantic comedy: having a child. It happens but we have no idea how to register it against out romcom templates.
Some may think these are signs of a broken movie or an immature writer-director. They seem to me to be effective, deliberately engineered gaps that define an unknown, moving edge we are taken to and baptized in the open ignorance we bring.
Zooey really does understand what is going on. She's the perfect actor for this experiment.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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