As “Gigantic” reveals Brian (Paul Dano) and Happy’s (Zooey Deschanel) courtship, it always stays true to its all-you-need-is-love philosophy. Normally, that would be annoying, but in “Gigantic” it’s sophisticated, funny, witty, quirky and sometimes confusing, just like real life.
The key to any good romantic tale is believable chemistry between the lead actors. Thankfully, the bond between Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel is captivatingly real in “Gigantic,” the small indie from first-time writer-director Matt Aselton that was a darling on the festival circuit.
As “Gigantic” reveals Brian (Dano) and Happy’s (Deschanel) courtship, it always stays true to its all-you-need-is-love philosophy. Normally, that would be annoying, but in “Gigantic” it’s sophisticated, funny, witty, quirky and sometimes confusing, just like real life. Even the film’s tone – think “Little Miss Sunshine” meets the “Royal Tenenbaums” – is spot-on. The humor is dry, the dialogue is honest, and the cast is top-notch. It’s no sap and all substance.
It might seem weird that Brian, an unmotivated 28-year-old, high-end mattress salesman, is bent on adopting a baby from China. But Dano’s (“There Will Be Blood”) portrayal is so endearing you become engrossed in his quest and peculiarities.
Feeling like a misfit, Brian has always been embarrassed by having a mom and dad (Ed Asner and Jane Alexander) that looked like grandparents, and intimidated by his two successful older brothers: a doctor and an oil man. But Happy is about to change all that.
When she walks into his factory to hand over $14,000 for a bed her eccentric dad (John Goodman) bought, she’s as hypnotic and loopy as ever. She’s a spoiled daddy’s girl who’s had five careers in five years, but Brian is smitten. Goodman – in his best role in ages as art collector Al Lolly – brings charm and nuance to the sharp-tongued papa bear indulging his daughter’s every whim. He’s not scary, just a bit odd in his frank comments about sex.
Aselton is adept in developing the surreal opposites-attract romance between Happy and Brian while staying true to the crazy dynamics of their families. Some might call it dysfunction; others might see it as ordinary. Neither family’s so far gone that Happy and Brian are scared off. Some guys wouldn’t put up with Happy’s dad – who, among other oddities – lies prone in the back of his car whenever he goes out. Neither would some girls put up with the racist and sexist comments made by Brian’s dad. In fact, it’s something else that sends Happy packing in the inevitable third-act breakup.
If there’s a knock, it’s that in trying to be different, “Gigantic” goes almost to the point of quirk-overload. Every character, down to Brian’s boss who eats goat stew for lunch, has some kind of freakishness about them.
In the end, though, “Gigantic” find success in telling a small story to effectively tackle a big love-conquers-all theme.
GIGANTIC (PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and language.) Cast includes Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Ed Asner and Jane Alexander.
The Patriot Ledger