Pretentious; Unavoidably Bad


Starring: Zooey Deschanel, Paul Dano

By Robert Patrick

Gigantic is a fluffy ball of cotton candy, whipped out of sugar and airiness, that has little knowledge to what it wants to be. The movie, at its core, wants to be a whimsical romance, giving into the buzz of two people’s hearts. The outer layer of the movie, from what Aselton professes, is a kind of murky phantasmagoria that is never fully addressed within the confines of the film. Before fully laying the brick in his newest opus, Aselton, being the purposed savant that he is, wanted to incorporate dreamlike scenes into his film that have nothing to do with the plot. The odd mixture of cutesy sensibility and rogue darkness make Gigantic one of the most pretentious films of the year. Half of the movie has a strange man, sullied by dirtied clothes, attacking the central character for no specific reason. The other, more loopy half of Gigantic is about as tart and lumpy as pie filling; the characters bop around, spinning wacky one-liners that pop from their mouths like some kind of unearthly verbiage that no one, in real life, would ever say. 

Brian Weathersby (played by Paul Dano, who also produced the film) is a sullen 28 year-old who has dreams, like many other people his age, of adopting a baby from China. Yeah, right. When he doesn’t behave like a quiet lecher, Brian works at a mattress company, selling beds to a myriad of customers who prod furniture with the ravenous curiosity of a vulture’s beak. During one of these tedious days at work, the behemoth Al Lolly (John Goodman), who dresses like a portly Elvis Costello, walks into the place to purchase a mattress from the introverted Brian. Al spits out clever innuendo at the rate of a machinegun; stomps around with little discrepancy to where his feet land; and huffs loudly whenever he moves. His cankerous demeanor is surprising, then, when Brian meets his daughter, Happy, who is prances around without a care.

When the seemingly crestfallen Brian meets the flighty Happy (Zooey Deschanel), the sparks don’t fly as much as kick up with humility. Brian is wrapped up in his clothes, slinging on his wardrobe with foppish abandon, as he mats his hair down.. The twenty-something is monotone, lacks charisma, and lets the ocean take him wherever – as long as he gets that Chinese baby, of course. Happy Lolly, on the other hand, mews incessantly, paws at whatever she sets her balloon heart on, and coos when she wants something. Happy’s personality would be endearing, I think, at the age of seven. But happy isn’t seven, she’s twenty-something. So when she kicks up her feet and spins herself around in circles like a carousel, it’s just kind of creepy. 

Most of Gigantic relies on the vapid, syrupy presence of Zooey Deschanel. In real life, the singer/actress skips around, looking much the same, as she putters through her career, bow in hair, bangs in face. The movie, whether accurate or not, feels like it’s capitalizing on Deschanel’s fame in the music world. I can imagine her face, lips puffing out, on the cover of Spin Magazine as the primary influence to the film’s style. 

If you’re wondering about the pace of the film, you can envision a scene where, to my ultimate chagrin, Deschanel and Dano gab about advertisements in a hospital waiting room for what seems like an endless amount of time. There are also other sequences, equally as grueling, where Dano gets shot, out of nowhere, with no explanation. A particular ridiculous sub plot involves Dano’s onscreen family hunting for mushrooms in the forest – while high. 

None of this really means anything but to seem – and look – cool to the director; all of the actors and actresses even wear clothes that look like they were stolen from a high school drama class. Gigantic is, without question, a most taxing picture to watch. Most of the characters crane their heads down low, do eccentric things, and then juggle stilted lines of dialogue in their mouths – but what does this all mean? 

I suppose you’re in trouble when the director, of all people, tells you he wanted to add things to the script without needing to explain their actions. I only wish I could drop the word “pompous” as a byline on the film’s poster. 

Avoid, unless you want to see a grown woman act like a precocious child whose primary goal is to use terms like “neo-grandma”, while twirling her hair around her finger.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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