Projections - Movie Reviews

Jersey Girl

The latest collaboration of Ben Affleck and writer-director Kevin Smith is the dramatic comedy, Jersey Girl, which doesn’t have the bounce and emotional punch of their first outing, Chasing Amy. They know each other very well but Smith’s personal film just doesn’t gel.

Those expecting a film from Smith similar to his 90's Jersey Trilogy, begun with Clerks are in for a bit of a surprise. Most people know that Jersey Girl is Affleck’s second feature with Jennifer Lopez and that she’s not in it for long. And that was supposedly for the better, but given how this gentle, flashback story plays out her presence is always there.

Here, Affleck is immediately more likeable than his Gigli hit man in the role of New York music promoter Ollie Trinke, one of the best at what he does. His diligent, dogged assistant is one Arthur Brickman (Jason Biggs, last seen in Anything Else.) Gertrude Steiney (Lopez) is the book editor who quickly wins over his heart and matrimonial bliss leads to a baby. A girl is born, but Smith’s cut back to Gertrude during delivery reveals a fatal aneurysm during childbirth.

The baby girl, named Gertie is carted around by Ollie after his city worker, sweeper-operating father, Bart, a low-key George Carlin, has to do his job, instead of playing daddy. That leads to a press conference for a rising star at which Ollie loses his cool due to child care pressure and is fired.

The narration by yong Gertie tells the story part in New York City and part in New Jersey. The New Jersey segment serves as the bulk of the movie when Ollie and Gertie move back there to live with Bart. Ollie assumes blue-collar status earning a living doing the kind of chores dad does and Jersey Girl quickly becomes candid and a little comedic, particularly when Gertie, a very adorable Raquel Castro. becomes a 7-year-old.

Despite a decent rapport between Affleck and Castro, Smith’s material feels rather stagnant and stale for most of its running time. Jersey Girl introduces the other main female as a love interest for the long abstinence of Ollie. Graduate student Maya (Live Tyler) is working on an interesting thesis and shows more than a passing interest in Ollie when he and Gertie are picking out videos.

It appears that Smith, who dedicated the film to his late father, shares a similarity to Ollie, but the foibles and working-class sincerity projected by Affleck don’t create the interest that it should. Gertie and Maya appear to have whet it takes to get Ollie to come to his senses and there’s some good referencing to a key scene in a school play “Sweeney Todd” where dad has a leading role. But, Ollie gets unexpected support from Biggs’ Arthur who lands him an interview at a PR firm named Angelotti’s that could return him to the kind of life he lost after Gertie was born. That forces him to make a lifetime decision.

Jersey Girl, most would agree, chugs to a conclusion with little payoff. Given its honest intentions with contemporary songs mirroring Ollie’s transitioning life. But Smith’s picture is a better showcase for the newcomer Castro and a decent Carlin, remembered as a cardinal in Dogma. Affleck is a pretty good sport as his Ollie has amusing moments with buddies` Matt Damon and Jason Lee playing PR executives and with a turtle-necked Will Smith in a waiting room.

Jersey Girl

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