Monday, September 10, 2007

David Gordon Green's "All the Real Girls" (2003)

Watching Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," I was struck by two things - (1) Dominik's apparent (and very serious) fascination with Terence Malick and (2) co-star Paul Schneider.

The nominal star of the film is, of course, Brad Pitt and its break-out star is Casey Affleck, but Schneider continually commands attention, taking our eyes away from the stars whenever he's on screen doing his provocative turn as the libidinous Dick Liddil. With a dangerous glint in his eyes and a ranginess reminiscent of the young Dennis Quaid, Schneider takes this decidedly politically incorrect role and runs with it.

It reminded me of how great he was in David Gordon Green's seriously flawed "All the Real Girls," a film which, had it been better, could have loomed as Schneider's break-out movie. Unfortunately, it didn't and Schneider took his considerable charms and talents and bided his time in such films as "The Family Stone" and "Elizabethtown."

In Green's movie, Schneider played a guy named Paul, who at age 22, is the uncontested Valentino of his home town, having slept with just about every available girl there. Paul meets his match in Noel (the irresistible Zooey Deschanel), his best friend's younger sister, and his inevitable relationship with her not only ends his friendship with Noel's brother but also gives Paul a dose of his own medicine.

In this bucolic, sex-reversed "Splendor in the Grass," it's the guy who falls hard for the girl and is practically destroyed emotionally when things don't quite work out as he planned. He is as much surprised by Noel's direct willfulness as we are because, at first glance, she looks like she'd be a pushover, too loyal for her own good. There are some interesting ideas in "All the Real Girls" - not the least of which is Schneider playing the Natalie Wood role - but the film doesn't add up to much in the long run.

Still, it's a joy to watch Schneider and Deschanel together and the good news is that Deschanel also pops up in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." But, alas, she and Schneider have no scenes together in it.

(Artwork: Zooey Dechanel and Paul Schneider in the flawed but fascinating "All the Real Girls")

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