- Rated R
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All photos © First Independent Pictures
Reviewed by Bob Westal
ven as someone who has a soft spot for offbeat indie comedies, I would nevertheless seriously consider instituting a perpetual moratorium on the use of the word “quirky” to describe that kind of movie. The only problem is then we’d have no other word to use in reference to something like “Gigantic.”
This is the story of the emotional life of Brian (Paul Dano of “There Will Be Blood” and “Little Miss Sunshine”), a low-key salesman of very expensive beds whose only real ambition is to adopt a Chinese baby. It’s a laudable but unusual goal for a young man, and he’d seem like a pretty stable guy were it not for the occasional apparently random violent attacks waged by an angry homeless man (the suddenly omnipresent Zach Galifianakis). It’s tempting to think that the encounters are imaginary, but the injuries seem real enough.
Brian is unfazed by all of that and manages to meet quirky (no other word!) “Happy” Lolly (Zooey Deschanel) when she comes in to pick up the bed purchased by her quirkily gruff business-guy father (John Goodman). An impromptu nap on the bed and a trip to dad’s place thereafter leads to seemingly random quirky sex between the two in her father’s van. As it turns out, however, any 20-something guy seeking to adopt a baby of any nationality is probably not a random-quirky-sex kind of a guy. So, a somewhat problematic and quirky relationship (between the ultra-low-key Brian and the adorable but not-quite stable Happy) ensues.
Looking at “Gigantic,” it’s almost impossible not to compare it with this year’s far better known, relatively quirk-free indie romantic comedy hit, “(500) Days of Summer.” That film also pairs Deschanel with a talented young actor blessed with unconventional charm, but friends and family only play ancillary roles in the story (and only from the side of leading man Joseph Gordon-Levitt). “Gigantic” is largely a story of two slightly contrasting, apparently very well to do, oddball families.
Happy’s truly gigantic father is matched by Brian’s somewhat more diminutive and much older dad (Edward Asner), who is a bit less threatening but no less eccentric (he was, no doubt, quirky in his youth and graduated to eccentricity in his golden years). “Eccentric” might seem like I’m falling back on clichés here, but what would you call an 80-year-old man who takes “magic” mushrooms while going out in search of tasty ordinary mushrooms for a special dinner. Okay, you might also call him “very cool.” Eventually, Brian’s mother (Jane Alexander) pops up to deliver a kind of benediction during the film’s final act. She is the only member of either of the film’s two families who is not particularly quirky or eccentric, and is therefore a minor godsend.
Part of me really wanted to be able to write that “Gigantic” was in some way a better film than “(500) Days of Summer,” which I found to be somewhat unremarkable. Director Matt Aselton appears to have a better eye for setting up his shots than Marc Webb, and his film is definitely more out of the ordinary. It has a darker hue and some characteristically odd dirty jokes, but simply being unusual won’t cut it. For all my quibbles, “Summer” does a far better job of simply telling its story; the “Gigantic” screenplay, by Aselton and college friend Adam Nagata, is something of a formless void.
What prevents “Gigantic” from going completely off the rails is a cast of actors who are basically incapable of being uninteresting. This may not be anyone’s absolute finest moment, but we get some very nice moments from most of the cast, particularly goddamn-national-treasure Ed Asner, who relishes his longer than usual screen time and really shows why, even after “Up,” he’s still one of our most underrated performers.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
The only special features worth discussing on this disc are some really short deleted and alternative scenes running less than a minute. To me, these are random trims of no particular interest or entertainment that might as well have been left out. As short as they are, somehow including them is worse than having no extras at all. I am reminded of one of the very old jokes Woody Allen quotes in “Annie Hall”: “Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ‘em says, ‘Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.’ The other one says, 'Yeah, I know; and such small portions.'"