ALL THE REAL GIRLS (David Gordon Green, 2003)

Between George Washington (2000) and Undertow (2004), U.S. writer-director David Gordon Green made another film set in a small town in the American South: All the Real Girls, from a story by himself and Paul Schneider, who plays the lead role, who, suspiciously, also is named Paul. Unfortunately, this film murkily travels a morose route only to reach an infuriatingly indeterminate ending.
     The film opens with a rigorously stylized scene in which Paul, a womanizer in his twenties, and Noel, an 18-year-old heretofore-virgin, face each other and declare their mutual feelings. One of the things Noel says is that she feels she can tell Paul anything—and this she in fact acts upon, confessing her infidelity to Paul after a one-night-stand. She even does this joyously, having discovered she is in love with Paul as a result of fucking this other chap; however, Paul angrily breaks up with her, feeling humiliated, having traded in his prodigious field-playing for—he thought—their exclusive relationship. They both act hysterically and stupidly.
     Paul’s best friend is Noel’s brother, Tip, who goes ballistic when he learns of their sexual relationship, inviting a taunt of incest. The suggestion, if accurate, remains limited to Tip’s individual pathology; Green doesn’t sound out the extent to which incest inhabits American consciousness, which Vincente Minnelli does, in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and Father of the Bride (1950), and nineteenth-century novelist Herman Melville does in Pierre, where it is suggested that democracy and incest are each a parody of the other.
     After the opening, Green relaxes the stylization only a little; moreover, the lead acting is unreal: Schneider; Zooey Deschanel as Noel. By way of compensation, Patricia Clarkson is briefly wonderful as Paul’s mother, who works as a rentable clown.

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