August 29, 2009

Zooey Deschanel: The Limitations of Being Darling

 (Zooey Deschanel with Paul Dano in Gigiantic.)

Gigantic, yet another film in which the adorable Zooey Deschanel works her offbeat charms on a bumbling male, reducing him to mush. Over the past decade or so, Deschanel has carved out a fine niche for herself in Hollywood. As a quirky supporting actress, she's a consistent scene-stealer; off-set, her personal style (heavy on the vintage) is well admired; and her talents as a singer introduced her to a wider audience as one-half of She and Him.

(Dano's awkward facial expressions, repeated many times over in the film.)
In Gigantic, Deschanel is paired with Paul Dano (the self-imposed mute guy in Little Miss Sunshine), playing characters called Happy and Brian. Twentysomethings going through quarterlife crises, they tentatively start a relationship. Dano wears the same nauseated and tortured expression throughout much of the movie (is that his lovesick face?), and Deschanel wears predictably great outfits and says things like "Do you have any interest in having sex with me?" in her trademark deadpan and big-eyed stare combo.

(A clever--and gorgeously shot--scene where Deschanel removes her clothes to swim in the pool, coinciding with Dano jumping in so the rippled water blurs the nudity.)

Director Matt Aselton throws in a handful of idiosyncracies, such as Brian's lifelong quest to adopt a baby from China, and an uncredited Zack Galifanakis (bearded buy in The Hangover) playing a bum hell-bent on murdering Brian, and with cinematographer Peter Donahue, he produces some stylish images. But when push comes to shove, Gigantic is just another mildly diverting indie, destined to come up only when journalists do a quick summary of the actors' films in star profiles.

For Deschanel, Gigantic represents neither a high or a low in her film career, more like another dot in a maddeningly horizontal line. She's very good at what she does, so good that we wonder what more she's capable of. Now that she's fully "arrived" as a star, can she please move onwards and upwards?

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