Friday, September 22, 2006
All The Real Girls, d. David Gordon Green
The first time I saw All The Real Girls was about 4 years ago on DVD. I was at my girlfriends place at the time. We were just spending a day inside watching films. It was about 2 years into a start/stop relationship. But I had recently decided to treat her better and try to make it work. To grow up in a way. The second time I watched All the Real Girls was last night. 4 years later. That perviously mentioned relationship long over. And two other relationships including one which I thought was definitely headed towards marraige over. Viewed in the wake of failed relationships this film is about as devistating as they come.
The first scene, the first shot is about one of my favorite moments in film. A steady camera sees two people against a grey fall landscape. The woman is looking away when a man asks her what she is thinking. Her response is that she likes him, she likes him cause she can say what's on her mind. But what's on her mind? What follows is a good two minutes or so where the characters decide if they want to kiss. The camera stays still and they are in the center of the frame. Fade to black 4 times, each time with a different shot of the town, a rundown Tennessee or North Carolina mill town, before coming eventually restarting the movie with 4 guys, 20 somethings walking down the railroad tracks. One of them is the guy we just saw with the girl.
We find out that it was Paul in the first seen with Tip's sister. Tip and Paul are best friends. #1 best friends. But Paul has slept with every girl in town. Tip's sister is back from boarding school, and doesn't really know of Paul's past escapades. At one point she mentions she will not ask him about them. He only needs to tell her if he wants to. Paul at one point tells Noel that he doesn't want to sleep with her, because he doesn't want her to be like all the other girls.
It's simple really. Two kids fall in love and attempt to stay in love despite everyone around them thinking its a bad idea, that its gonna fail. Paul does his best to prove that she isn't like every other girl to him, which is easier said than done for just about anyone. What seperates it from other love stories is there is absolutely no gloss here. Paul and Noel both say and do incredibly stupid things. At times inmature, at times hurtful, at times genuinely beautiful. It's clumsy as hell all the way through. It's not easy. It doesn't seem to all fit together. We don't know really how Paul and Noel met, in the opening scene we just see them and we know that they are connected in a very meaningful sense of the word. And we watch them clumsily and akwardly try to maintain or sustain or maybe just understand that connection.
I've spoken to many people who I respect about this film, who's tastes seem similar to mine, and they have hated it. One reason was the language. It's shot in a mill town. The language is simple it's drawn out. And as I said at times immature. But this is the template that David Gordon Green is working with here. We recognize that in the still images of the town right after the first scene. It's not a judgemental eye that he casts on his characters at all. He is not saying that everyone from these towns looks, talks, and acts like this. He is just saying these people do. When Zooey Daeschnel says in a southern draw, "I like you because I can say what's on my mind..." there is so much emotion behind those words, it doesn't matter that you have heard them 100 times before, or that she says it in a souther drawl. What matters is she gets so much life into that line, its impossible at least for me, not to be affected.
In Green's direction the town is also a main player. Sometimes we will hear voiceovers of conversation, but all we see is the sunset. Or the river, or mountains, or trees. It's fall or winter, but nothing is especially bright, or beautiful. It's brown, it's dreary, it has it's moments sure. But only when the two are really in love and sharing that love can some of the beauty of the town be realized. People don't leave this town. They stay and work at the mill. They can have the shadow of the mill and the thoughts of never leaving run and be their life. Or they can create something beautiful within, and have the mill be behind them, even if it is central in the town.
I know someone who saw this movie after a terrible breakup who just flat out refuses to watch it again. Maybe it was too real. Maybe that clumsiness in the way that we sometimes try to show we love eachother is too much. Some people will be turned off by that clumsiness. Other people will see it and be totally drawn in or captured by it. I was entirely captured by it.