Friday, September 13, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Jersey Girl (2004) ***½

PG-13, 102 min.
Director/Writer: Kevin Smith
Starring: Ben Affleck, Raquel Castro, Liv Tyler, George Carlin, Jason Biggs, Stephen Root, Mike Starr, Jennifer Lopez, Will Smith

You know how there’s that Hollywood cliché about the dad who chooses work over family all the time and the kids or the wife or the parents don’t think that the father really appreciates his kids the way he should. There’s always a big recital or a big game or something at the end of the movie that the father promises the kid that he’ll be there for, but something comes up and it looks like he’s going to miss the kid’s special moment yet again for the final time, because this time is the last straw and if he really doesn’t make it the kid, or the wife, or the whole entire family is just giving up on him for good. At the beginning of the event he has yet to arrive because after finally making the right choice instead of the wrong one, he has run into traffic, or his car won’t start, or he can’t find a cab, or he runs into a parade route. The child is looking for him, but she doesn’t see him and is sad. The show goes on even though he has yet to arrive. But, before the end, right before the really big moment for the kid, he walks in through the back. Even though he’s in the back of the crowd, or in the wings of the stage, the kid spies him and a smile creeps across her face, and everything is right in the world again. I’m sure you’re familiar with this cliché, because is has happened in literally hundreds of movies and TV shows. Well, guess what? It’s a cliché for a reason.

I recently found myself faced with this Hollywood moment involving my own kid’s soccer game. There was no way I could make the game, and finish what I had to do at work. Believe it or not, sometime you really can’t just leave the job. I know you can believe it because if you left your job every time you wanted to or even felt you needed to, you wouldn’t have a job. So, I had to decide if I was going to bust my ass to maybe, but not likely make that final magic moment in my kid’s game, where he was really very unlikely to have had any sort of life defining moment. Or should I just give that non-existent moment up. I eventually chose the latter, because to get there would involve not only finishing work at an unlikely time, but also picking up my daughter from a babysitter and driving another forty-five minutes to probably just get there in time to see the parking lot empty. My wife didn’t hold this against me. I don’t think my kid even cared. But it all made me think of “Jersey Girl”.

Kevin Smith’s heartfelt movie that marked his first foray away from the Jay and Silent Bob universe is often criticized for embracing such clichés as the ones I’ve described here. But, a cliché is only bad if it’s handled as a formula rather than as a human experience. “Jersey Girl” is a human experience and a wonderful example of the clichés mentioned above. It’s a good version of the work obsessed dad cliché because Smith made Ben Affleck’s dad a good dad and gave him good reasons for being obsessed with the things that draw him away from his daughter’s big moment. Unfortunately, the entire project was sucked into the backlash against the Affleck/Jennifer Lopez relationship, which lead to the movie that people really didn’t like, “Gigli”. But this was their first movie together, and their relationship actually works in this one. So, It’s a shame people didn’t pay attention to it. They’re missing out.

Another thing occurred to me about my own experience, however. Since the main reason I chose to miss my son’s game was so I could go get my daughter, my dilemma also parallel’s “Sophie’s Choice” to a very minor, not anything alike degree. Maybe I should watch that one next.

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