David Gordon Green’s “All the Real Girls”; The Magic and Madness of Young Lovers
by Ray Pride
[Editor’s note: indieWIRE originally published this article in January as part of our Sundance 2003 coverage.]
Cats can’t sublimate pleasure. Rub them too long, purring turns to confusion, mrrrowl turns into a slash down your wrist. Paul and Noel, the ill-starred young lovers in David Gordon Green’s sophomore feature, “All the Real Girls,” are like cats: they feel so many conflicting feelings of desire and admiration and possession that all they can do is explode. It’s such a sweet portrayal of youth’s tremulous indecision and shattering desire, with its vast, unstemmable hormonal surges.
The 27-year-old director has made another American original, effortlessly authentic to the humidity and timelessness of the American South, yet showing a post-modern willingness to splinter his narrative for maximum lyrical impact. Green’s nameless tiny North Carolina mill town is a similar lost planet to the one depicted in his first feature, “George Washington,” yet his splintered narrative is a step forward. Rather than poesy out of the mouths of babes, “All the Real Girls”‘ rhapsodic dialogue and despairing over an imperfect love is measured in sustained takes without traditional coverage. Memory is a scalpel, and “All the Real Girls” cuts deep with its odd parallels to Wong Kar-Wai’s “In the Mood For Love” and Elia Kazan’s “Splendor in the Grass” (with a touch of “The Last Picture Show”).
But the kiss: not Noel, in mid-story, quietly commanding, “Kiss me on my neck,” but the story’s start, after a few front-end credits, a Will Oldham song quietly churning breath, a long take in CinemaScope, boy and girl center frame, beautifully embodying the screenwriting dictum of get-in-late-get-out-early: it’s all the stuff before and directly after the first kiss, and the smooch itself. The magic and madness that follows comes down to that: first time lips-on-lips, first time words become only embellishment and meaning comes only with the meeting of fingertips.
Paul, the kissee, is an unregenerate skirt-chaser, mostly in the company of his best friend, Tip. (A first act detailing Paul’s amorous misprisions was axed in editing, which provides unusually elaborate flashbacks to his pre-Noel rascality.) Paul Schneider’s face clouds often, bunched brow shadowing his eyes, as if shielding him from self-knowledge. The starriest moments belong to Zooey Deschanel, as Noel, the kisser, indelible as a dippy virgin who happens to be 18-year-old sister of Tip. Deschanel, startlingly present and transparent in her performances in small roles in movies such as “Almost Famous,” “The Good Girl,” and “Abandon” is an all-American marvel. While some may be reminded of the faux-na