Jersey Girl

2004, Movie, PG-13, 113 mins

Review

starstarstarstar
Kevin Smith's sweet, often charming and sometimes funny film about a single father raising his young daughter opened amid speculation about GIGLI/Ben Affleck-Jennifer Lopez backlash, the absence of Smith's trademark stoners, Jay and Silent Bob, and other matters that had nothing to do with the film itself. Workaholic music publicist Ollie Trinke (Affleck) seems to have it all at the age of 27, including a gorgeous and understanding wife, Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez), and a high-paying power job in Manhattan. But it all disappears in the blink of an eye. Gertrude dies during childbirth and the stress of trying to cope with the loss while dealing with the needs of an infant results in the young widower's very public professional meltdown. The citified Ollie is forced to move back home with his father, Bart (George Carlin), and come to terms with his obligation to raise the child he has been trying to ignore. Flash forward seven years and we see the adorable Gertie (newcomer Raquel Castro), who has become the complete focus of her father and grandfather's lives. But despite Ollie's devotion to Gertie, he still regards his job as a small-town street sweeper as just temporary and dreams of getting back into the music business, even though he has been well and truly shunned. Ollie's suburban future looks a bit brighter after he meets attractive video-store clerk Maya (Liv Tyler); they begin a mutual flirtation under the guise of an interview for her graduate dissertation. While fans of Smith's trademark foul-mouthed characters may wonder who slipped the mellow pills into their idol's coffee, his offbeat sense of humor peeks through in the film's often witty dialogue, which touches on pornography, sexual encounters and a child who is fascinated by the murderous musical Sweeney Todd. And though the film occasionally falls into conventional sentimental grooves (notably in Affleck's various weepy scenes), it marks a solid attempt on Smith's part to tell a mature story about adult concerns, rather than the slacker morals of teenagers. Overall it's an enjoyable cruise down the Garden State Parkway, and Affleck and Castro are charming companions. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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