Paul Dano broke into the mainstream with Little Miss Sunshine, immediately capturing the attention of many critics across the nation. His follow-up, the 2007 epic There Will Be Blood, failed to get him an Oscar nomination, but the buzz was intense. So, it's a little disappointing to see him deliver a rather dull performance in Gigantic, a romantic dramedy that doesn't have much of a point.
Gigantic is harmless enough, as far as these indie comedies go. Ever since Little Miss Sunshine made the genre popular again a few years back, these things have been coming out of the wood work, to mixed results. There have been good ones, there have been bad ones, but most of all, there have been forgettable ones. Gigantic fits into that latter category.
The movie, directed by first-timer Matt Aselton, is about a high-end mattress salesman named Brian who is hoping to adopt a kid from China. I question how a single, twenty-something male would be allowed to adopt a Chinese kid, but that's beside the point. When Harriet (Zooey Deschanel), the daughter of a rich eccentric (John Goodman), shows up to pick up a $14,000 mattress, which, frankly, does not look all that comfortable or spacious, Brian is immediately smitten, and it isn't long before an awkward relationship has begun. But Harriet plans to go to school in France, while Brian's plans to "have a kid" could be another obstacle to their future.
At 98 minutes, Gigantic moves along fast enough. Aselton's debut as a director is worthy enough, as the movie looks good and he knows how to handle his surprisingly strong cast of actors. Unfortunately, his story, co-written by Adam Nagata, is unremarkable. A movie like this relies on its subtle goofiness, and Gigantic just doesn't have much of it. Goodman tries his hardest, but his is a one-joke character. Dano's mumbling, Michael Cera-esque character isn't nearly as likeable or interesting as Aselton was aiming for, which is problematic since he's the lead by a long shot. He isn't very funny, nor are the situations that he runs into; all of this contributes to a lack of enjoyable chemistry with his co-star.
Speaking of Deschanel, she is the one saving grace. After having turned in one of the worst performances ever witnessed in The Happening, her performance here is a nice rebound. She reminds us how likable, cute and fun she can be. Still, juxtaposed against Dano and the movie as a whole, there is very little for her to do other than to just look cute and jump naked into a swimming pool.
Gigantic has enough charm to squeak its way through its hour and a half running time, but it's a forgettable and ultimately uninteresting dramedy with little in the way of resolution or effort to go above and beyond. It is a victim of its genre, with expectations that by being a bit odd and off-the-mark it will please audiences. This is a classic mistake of a first-time writer/director, but it's a shame that Dano got pulled into it, too.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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