Fathers and Daughters in Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl
Happy Saturday! If you're looking for a heartwarming feature for a chilly weekend afternoon, I think I've got a winner for you. Movie #5 is Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl.
Jersey Girl (2004)
'Cause you're the only thing I was ever really good at.
There are plenty of shitty rom-coms. Even more rom-coms that got shitty reviews. Jersey Girl is not a shitty rom-com. In fact, it's a pretty darling movie - maybe that's why everybody hated it so much.
Though my money's on Jennifer Lopez.
So if you're late to the part, in the early 2000s, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck merged to become an entity called "Jennifer," and in that period of time, they managed to make two movies together. One, the infamous Gigli (of which I can find no merit), and Jersey Girl.
If you're worried, don't waste too much time on it - Smith kills off Lopez within the first twenty minutes (not really a spoiler), and we get Liv Tyler. She's great. We can get on with life.
But really, this is a good one. Particularly, in a market saturated with stories about women finding "the one," I'm drawn to a story about a widower trying not just to move on, but ultimately, to be a better father. There is a romance between Tyler and Affleck. But, that's secondary.
The real relationship at stake here is between Ollie (Affleck) and his daughter, Maya.
I love Kevin Smith (see my review of Tusk, a slightly less family friendly endeavor), and was in line when this one came out. The type of dudes used to consuming his filmography (and they are a majority dude audience) were none so thrilled with this endeavor. And honestly, it's very easy to see why.
It is cute. It is sweet. It is missing jokes about weed, comics, and Star Wars (though it still gets in a fantastically awkward penis joke and substitutes musicals for the comics). But it's not a movie for those guys - or at least, not the ones who aren't interested in parenthood.
When I watch Jersey Girl over a decade later, I see a film made by a young father thinking about what it means to be a parent. What it would mean to do that job alone. And what it takes to earn the respect of your child. I can't think of a better father-daughter movie. With George Carlin to boot.
Anything involving Carlin makes me happy. He delivers in every way. I especially enjoy his demands to "take her to see The Cats."
Any scene with a reference to Cats and how it's the "second-worst thing to ever happen to New York."
The school talent show wherein every family performs Memory from Cats.
Ollie taking Maya to see Sweeney Todd instead of Cats. Her immediate love for it.
Basically, I'm in love with the Cats joke. #SorryNotSorry
Other Things to Notice:
Correct me if I'm wrong, but this was George Carlin's last film role (aside from voiceovers for a few animated films).
For those Kevin Smith fanboys I've just offended - I am one of you. I know Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back by heart, I get down with Clerks and Clerks 2, and I think his forays into horror/thrillers with Red State and Tusk have been unprecedented. I just want you all to know - this movie ranks, too. Just because it appears softer and sweeter, doesn't mean it's any less a View Askew production. In fact, along with Chasing Amy and Dogma, it's some of his most heartfelt work.
I think you should be proud to enjoy even its most saccharine moments. Because life should be full of those, if you're doing it right.
If You Like it, Watch:
Dogma (1999): This is another Smith movie - not a rom-com, but starring Linda Fiorentino as a woman in a crisis of faith. This had a lot of cult fans when it came out, and it deserves all of them. Strong movie with a strong female lead.
Corrina, Corrina (1994): If there's a better father-daughter movie, or one on par, I think it's this one (maybe Curly-Sue). I haven't seen it in a number of years, so I don't know how it holds up, and with films that deal with racial issues, there's a chance it might feel dated now. But Whoopi Goldberg is at her best, and Ray Liotta was particularly well cast. Give it a watch, tell me what you think.
You can watch Jersey Girl on Amazon Prime.
Want in on the February Challenge?
Start with the first post – All That Jazz is a Chick Flick.
Check out previous picks, like yesterday's Grey Gardens.
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