, 108 min, 2003
Director: David Gordon Green
Writers: David Gordon Green (story), Paul Schneider (story), David Gordon Green (written by)
Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Paul Schneider, Patricia Clarkson
David Gordon Green’s All the Real Girls, his second feaure film, is another poetic, lovely, thoughtful take on small-town North Carolina life to rival his terrific debut, George Washington (2000).
Paul Schneider (who co-conceived the story with Green) plays Paul, a lothario who sleeps with all the girls in town and then dumps them quickly and not particularly tactfully (“I think I hate you too”). He hangs out with his two best friends: the hard-working and hard-drinking Tip (Shea Whigham) and comic relief Bust-Ass (Danny McBride), and occasionally helps his mom (Patricia Clarkson) as a clown for hire at the local children’s hospital.
When Tip’s sister Noel (the lovely Zooey Deschanel) comes back to town from boarding school, Paul is faced with his first real prospect for love. They tentatively begin a hot and cold love affair, much to Tip’s chagrin when he finds out. But will she just be another conquest, or will they succeed where previous relationships have failed?
David Gordon Green has a great eye for visual splendor, aided and abetted by cinematographer Tim Orr who previously captured the hyper-saturated color scheme of George Washington). Here the rural mill town in Green’s home state of North Carolina is shot in an amber glow, evoking a kind of early to mid autumn air which fits the chilly but romantic subject matter. Furthermore, Green has an equal ear for dialogue like few writer-directors out there, imbuing his characters with a verbal vibe which sounds plausible in a heightened reality sort of way; these people talk not like you or me, but how we might wish we could talk. One is reminded of Terrence Malick at times.
Deschanel is luminescent and fragile as a sweet young girl for whom Paul his her first lover, and for whom the ultimate dream is to find someone nice, trust-worthy and decent. Paul tries to fit the bill, but nobody’s perfect. Shea Whigham as Tip is not a jerk but is simply protective of his physically and emotionally mature sister (perhaps overprotective?) and perhaps drinks a bit more than he should. And Danny McBride as Bust-Ass is the “class” clown as it were, providing some levity and a few surprising moments of insight and honest-to-goodness tenderness when the going gets rough.
All the Real Girls is a bittersweet tone poem for North Carolina, for young love, and for the heartbreak that often ensues. It’s an absolute gem which proves that Green is not a one trick pony but the real deal. It’s also one of the best films of this still young year.