There's certainly enough promise on hand -- quirky characters, quiet pacing, quick and unforced wit -- but it appears Aselton would rather go for disaffected style than narrative substance. And that unfortunately cheats some fine performances and, at its core, some wonderful larger ideas.
It all starts with Brian (Dano, thrilling in There Will Be Blood), a subdued specialty mattress salesman who's dreamed his entire life of adopting a Chinese baby. But adoption applications from single, 28-year-old guys don't usually float to the top of the pile.
Enter Happy (Deschanel), a curious mix of shyness and decisiveness who falls asleep on one of Brian's mattresses... and then falls for Brian. As their relationship slowly blossoms, unfortunate attempts at spare, indie dialogue fly. And it soon becomes clear that Aselton and co-writer Adam Nagata are using the adoption idea solely as a plot device, rather than an honest point of emotion or desire.
It's too bad, because it's an original, touching take on the adoption story, but we don't get any hows or whys. Instead, the concept is used as a convenient wedge to scare away Happy; worse, Brian's elderly dad (a warm, wise Ed Asner) admits that his son has wanted a Chinese baby since he was eight. What?! Without further explanation, that's just needlessly edgy -- and creepy.
But Deschanel and Dano, taking stabs at executive producing, hold up their end of the bargain. They successfully carry the lack of convention Aselton is clearly trying to sell; yet the couple still attracts us to their courtship. You can see it in their faces: Dano's dreary visage gives way to occasional confidence or happiness; Deschanel is all wishful thinking behind those sweet, hopeful eyes.
When they are the focus, Gigantic works. When the film throws in peripheral weirdos like Happy's father (a fun John Goodman), Gigantic feels like a collection of loosely connected shorts. And loosely collected oddballs. The guy who greets everyone with "What's up dude, not much." The rich brother who favors Asian handjobs. The family who does 'shrooms before searching for the edible ones in the forest. Why fill a film with little eccentricities when there's a bigger, more sincere story to tell?
In small doses, Gigantic is smart, sweet, and amusing. At times, it actually feels like Aselton is close to putting it all together with a style that's as likable as his two stars. But Gigantic finally sinks under the weight of its peculiarities, making a possibly big story feel like no big deal.
Run time: 98 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th June 2009
Distributed by: First Independent Pictures
Production compaines: Gigantic Movie, Epoch Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Fresh: 30 Rotten: 53
IMDB: 6.1 / 10
Director: Matt Aselton
Producer: Mindy Goldberg, Christine Vachon
Screenwriter: Matt Aselton, Adam Nagata
Starring: Zooey Deschanel as Happy, John Goodman as Happy's Father, Paul Dano as Brian, Ed Asner as Kirby Weathersby, Jane Alexander as Barbara Weathersby, Ian Roberts as John Weathersby, Robert Stanton as James Weathersby, Clarke Peters as Roger Stovall, Daniel Stewart Sherman as Kevin Blue, Mary Page Keller as Marguerite Lolly, Zach Galifianakis as Homeless Man, Brian Avers as Larry Arbogast, Leven Rambin as Missy Thaxton, Susan Misner as Melanie Lolly, Matt Walton as Conner Williams
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