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by Peter Knegt
April 3, 2009 9:40 AM
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Round Up: Matt Aselton's "Gigantic"

"I don't remember ever wanting to just haul out and punch a movie before 'Gigantic,'" Nick Pinkerton writes in his review of Matt Aselton's film for The Village Voice.

Though Pinkerton's disdain for the film is somewhat more extreme that most critics, the film - which stars Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel - is finding a generally harsh response from critics. Writes indieWIRE's Michael Koresky:

"Two tired, and seemingly opposed, trademarks of recent American independent cinema make for a deadly combination in Matt Aselton’s “Gigantic.” It’s an arch, self-aware puppy-dog love story, shot through with an overly aestheticized, almost clinical detachment. This off-putting hybrid of idiosyncratic romantic comedy and surreal, interiorized character portrait is never able to remotely reconcile its two tendencies: to both ingratiate the audience with its main characters’ sizable quirks and to visually and sentimentally distance us from those same characters. The result is restless yet at the same inert, zigzagging with thematic inconsistencies in its telling of the hesitant romance between dissatisfied 29-year-old mattress salesman Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano) and sprightly-spunky-zombified Harriet “Happy” Lolly (Zooey Deschanel, who’s sort of an expert at this point at sprightly-spunky-zombified young women), who have little more in common than pallid demeanors and pretentiously literate-sounding names."

Scott Tobias' review for The AV Club is similarly unfriendly. "Strip away all the superfluous nonsense—a task equivalent to defluffing a mound of cotton candy—and Gigantic could have been about the complications that Dano’s dreams of adoption present for his nascent relationship with Deschanel," he writes. "But Dano and Deschanel are acting on different planets—he relentlessly inward-looking, she obliviously flighty—and co-writer/director Matt Aselton busies himself too much with pretty compositions and forced eccentricity to whip it into shape. Any resemblance the film bears to real people and real situations is purely coincidental."

While The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycut - reviewing the film at last year's Toronto International Film Festival, where it premiered - finds solace in "a terrific cast" but calls it overall "a mostly unsuccessful exercise in absurdity and surrealism."

The New York Times' Stephen Holden, though mixed, also finds some positive aspects in the film. "With its off-center dialogue and upscale industrial settings, “Gigantic” strains to be original," he writes. "But beneath its indie affectations it is really another contemplation of generational misunderstanding. Instead of the passionate ’60s and ’70s rebels pursuing authenticity in the material world, or ’80s and ’90s nihilists flamboyantly self-destructing, the movie’s meek lovebirds only want something worth their commitment."

One the film's few out and out raves comes care of The New York Post, where Kyle Smith compares director Aselton's "dry wit" to Hal Ashby: "Quirk fans, prepare to be lightly exhilarated," he exclaims.

But with much more positively received films like "Adventureland" and "Sugar" competing also opening this weekend, "Gigantic" could be hurt by the many, many reviewers that don't share Smith's enthusiasm.


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