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:: Jersey Girl

From disgruntled workers to renegade angels, the improbable to the impossible, Kevin Smith’s distinctive style is full of laughs and controversy. Jersey Girl is a new direction, not strictly a comedy and controversial only among fans concerned about his ‘selling-out’. This more personal story is written and directed, not by ‘Silent Bob’, but by Kevin Smith, the all-grown-up family man.

Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a young, successful publicist, representing the biggest names in music. He lives in a Manhattan apartment and has a beautiful girlfriend (Jennifer Lopez). They marry and are expecting their first child. He seems to have it all.

Amid this joy, an unexpected tragedy leaves him as a single father, unemployed and completely out of his depth. At the worst moment in his life, he turns to his own father (George Carlin) and moves back home to New Jersey. His daughter, Gertie (Raquel Castro), is raised a ‘Jersey girl’ through and through, but he still dreams of returning to his old life in New York.

While hiring his daughter’s favourite video, he gets chatting to Maya (Liv Tyler). She is a sweet girl behind the counter, who makes him blush with brazen personal questions and ultimately challenges his ideas about what he wants from his future.

The storyline may sound familiar but the clever dialogue and offbeat humour prevents Jersey Girl from becoming too cliched. The film uses simple camera angles and was shot in a real town in New Jersey, to maintain its honest feel and devotion to the story and characters.

The father-daughter and father-son relationships are touching, but also authentic in their arguments and their compromises. Ben Affleck has great chemistry with screen daughter Raquel Castro, and they interact like a real family. Castro’s performance is outstanding from a nine-year-old, displaying great understanding and insight into her character. She is adorable and very like Jennifer Lopez yet doesn’t try to be cutesy. In fact, one of her best scenes has her yelling and screaming, furious at her father. Her natural childishness in this scene is entirely unpretentious and appealing.

Jersey Girl has an emotional maturity far exceeding Kevin Smith’s earlier films, such as Mallrats or Chasing Amy, and will appeal to a broader demographic, but may also reduce his cult status among teen devotees. For him also, it’s a story of love overcoming cynicism.