What a Gigantic Waste of Time and Zooey Deschanel’s Blue eyes!

GiganticRunning time 98 minutesWritten by Matt Aselton and Adam NagataDirected by Matt AseltonStarring  Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, Edward Asner, Jane

Gigantic
Running time 98 minutes
Written by Matt Aselton and Adam Nagata
Directed by Matt Aselton
Starring  Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, Edward Asner, Jane Alexander, John Goodman

The professionals no longer know how to make the kinds of movies we used to go to the movies for, so the amateurs are taking over. We’re getting hammered by low-budget junk that nobody wants to see, even at Sundance. This week it’s a thing called Gigantic. It looks like it was made for one-half of Joan Crawford’s old soundstage Pepsi-Cola budget and sounds like it was written by chimpanzees.

I no longer have the heart to relate the alleged “plots” of these dogs. This one, blasting with nauseating rap music and directed by somebody named Matt Aselton and banged out on a BlackBerry by him and Adam Nagata, sort of defies description anyway. Brian (played by prune-faced Paul Dano) is a 28-year-old salesman in a depressing mattress warehouse in a neighborhood so derelict that a homeless thug keeps stalking Brian, beating and kicking him unconscious with fists and tire irons. Brian is the third, unplanned son of two aging, irresponsible parents (would you believe Ed Asner and Jane Alexander?), who think he’s a slacker. One brother is a surgeon, the other makes illegal oil deals. All Brian wants to do is adopt a baby from China. What he gets is an unlikely surprise romance with a kook named Harriet (Zooey Deschanel), who wanders into the showroom one day and falls asleep on one of the beds. After sex, he thinks he likes her. But she has a dysfunctional family, too—lorded over by a rich, loudmouth dad with a bad back (John Goodman) who makes obnoxious homophobic jokes, and a mother who divides her time between Taos and Naples, Fla., but rarely ever knows which place she is in or why she is there. The rest of the 98 minutes are devoted to a single question: How much charm can be squeezed out of a surreal meld of two weird families in a movie where nothing ever happens at all? The answer is not much.

Oh, they do knock themselves out trying to manufacture eccentricity—sadly, to no avail. Brian reads books about Mongolian monks who play basketball. Harriet reads magazine ads and sells rape whistles and pepper spray at gift shows. Sometimes Brian drops in on a friend who teaches biology and masturbates while fantasizing about one of his students, a pretty lab assistant studying aggression and sexual behavior in gerbils. Sometimes Harriet pops into the mattress loft to sip goat stew. “How is it?” asks Brian. “A little ligamenty,” gags Harriet. A long vomiting scene follows. Almost every character, in fact, has a go at diarrhea and vomiting. Meanwhile, an anonymous marksman wounds Brian and his father at a hunting lodge in the woods with a .22-gauge air rifle. It might be one of Brian’s brothers. None of this is ever explained.

You don’t dare doze, or you’ll miss the great Jane Alexander completely. Talk about wasting your assets. She appears in two scenes so inconsequential you wonder why she didn’t just phone it in. Sometimes it’s worth suffering through this dreck just to lose yourself in Zooey Deschanel’s blue eyes. Unfortunately, most of the screen time is wasted on mopey Paul Dano, who played the creepy brother in Little Miss Sunshine and the creepy son in There Will Be Blood. He looks like he’s on the verge of tears at all times and rarely speaks above a mumble. If you’re looking for onscreen charisma, bring a telescope. He does have a skinny-dipping scene, and you’ll wish he didn’t. The troubled ending leaves several major strings dangling. While you’re still wondering what demented adoption agency would allow a blank-faced dope to adopt a Chinese baby on a mattress salesman’s salary, Brian stabs the homeless psycho and leaves him in a pool of blood. Is the man dead? Where are the cops? Will Brian go to prison before Harriet leaves for cooking school in Paris? Nobody knows. The only way Gigantic lives up to its title is the consistency with which it drops every issue like a hot rock.

Instead of the usual big fat film-school bores I’ve come to expect from low-budget film projects like this, Gigantic is more like an infinitesimal fat film-school bore. The first 30 minutes are unwatchable. The other 68 minutes are pretty damned close to unspeakable. There’s an order blank for Gigantic already waiting at Netflix.

rreed@observer.com

 

What a Gigantic Waste of Time and Zooey Deschanel’s Blue eyes!