A film by Kevin Smith
Jersey Girl is the sixth film by director Kevin Smith and it marks a departure for him. The departure is not so much in the tone or the theme of the film, because Chasing Amy was his first departure in that regard. Rather, the departure is that Jersey Girl is the first Kevin Smith film that does not feature the characters Jay and Silent Bob. Jersey Girl is a step forward for Kevin Smith and it may very well be one of his best movies.
Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) has it made. He is a public relations man and he loves his job. He has a woman in his life, Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez), that he loves. He is living his life in New York City and he couldn t be happier. Ollie and Gertrude marry and she becomes pregnant. Gertrude gives birth to a baby girl, but dies during childbirth. Ollie is left with a baby daughter, no wife, and a lot of pain. Ollie enlists his alcoholic father, Bart (George Carlin) to help with the baby while Ollie goes to New York to work. This works for a little while, but Ollie is ignoring his child and is lost in his work and in his pain. Bart finally objects and forces Ollie to take the baby with him to work on the day that he has to do a huge pr job for actor Will Smith. It is 1994 and at the time Smith was only a rapper known as the Fresh Prince and also a television star on the show of the same name ( The Fresh Prince of Bel Air ). If you didn t expect the level of superstardom that Smith reach, you would be like most every one else. Will Smith is supposed to be promoting his movie Independence Day and Ollie doesn t think much of it, especially since Smith has not shown up for his pr date at the Hard Rock. Stress and tension mounts in Ollie as the crowd of reporters chants Will Smith s name and Ollie has to deal with the dirty diaper of his daughter at the same time. Finally Ollie explodes, snapping at the crowd, insulting the reporters and bashing his client. Ollie is naturally fired from his job, and he moves back in with his father in New Jersey. Ollie finally gets that he is not being a good father and tells his daughter that he will be much better in the future.
Seven years pass. Ollie is a much better father to his daughter, Gertie (Raquel Castro). He has not stopped trying to get his old job back and his old life back. Ollie s life takes a turn when he goes to rent a video for his daughter, and a more adult video for himself, and he meets Maya (Liv Tyler), the clerk at the video store. Maya is initially interested in Ollie s renting habits and tries to get Ollie to agree to an interview for her graduate thesis. In the midst of this she makes a comment about Ollie leaving his wife at home that turns out to be embarrassing because, as we know, Ollie s wife died seven years ago. Maya later asks Ollie out to lunch in an attempt to apologize and when she learns how long he has been celibate (seven years), she decides to do something about that, too. If you have seen a preview for Jersey Girl , you know that Gertie catches Ollie and Maya in the shower (where they were hiding out when Gertie came home) and this is the strange beginning to a friendship. As the movie continues Ollie has to make a decision if he is going to continue to pursue a life in New York City or accept that he is from New Jersey and that is really who he is.
Jersey Girl is very heartfelt and sweet. Ben Affleck has excellent chemistry with the major players in the cast and I cared about everyone in the movie. We, of course, want Ollie to stay in Jersey and we want him to fall for Maya, and we want him to be a good father to Gertie. Jersey Girl is also a very funny movie. Despite Kevin Smith s shift in tone for this film, he doesn t hold back in his dialogue and several things are wickedly funny. There is a scene where Gertie must sing a song for a class program. Every child chooses Memory from Cats, but Gertie chooses a scene from Sweeney Todd where there is a murder and a huge set is built for it. While it is perhaps a little sily that nobody knew what Sweeney Todd was (but then again, I didn t), it is also a rather clever, excellent scene. If you are a fan of the humor of Kevin Smith then there is something in this movie for you.
This film may have initially suffered from the Gigli fiasco, but Lopez and Affleck only share scenes in the first 15 minutes and then she is out of the movie. Despite all of the coverage of the Bennifer relationship, I honestly cared about this film relationship and was moved when Gertrude died. I understand that critics have not been overly kind to this movie (excepting, perhaps, Roger Ebert), but I wish that many of the critics could see the movie the way I saw it. Certainly there is clich , but it was heartfelt and clever in its humor and knowing enough that even a slow-clap scene at the end felt appropriate and perhaps the way that the applause would actually have happened in real life (on the off chance that scene from Sweeney Todd was permitted in an elementary school). By no means is this a perfect movie, but I enjoyed every minute of it and I cared about what happened to the characters. To me that means that Kevin Smith did his job.