Everything in Ollie Trinke’s (Ben Affleck) life seems perfect. He lives with his loving wife Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez) in Manhattan and he’s the best music publicist in the business.
But when his wife dies during the birth of their child his whole life changes. With the pressure of the responsibility of being a single parent and mourning the death of his wife he looses his job and has to move to Jersey to live with his father. It’s only then that he begins to re-evaluate what’s important to him.
Jersey Girl is the most understated film of Kevin Smith’s career. The humour is less adult and it lacks the vitriolic diatribes and caustic touch that epitomised his films Clerks, Chasing Amy and Dogma.
It’s confirmation of Kevin Smith taking a new direction. It’s also work that shows the writer/director in a more mature light. Often quoted as admitting to having created a career from nothing here he’s clearly attempting to stake his claim as a genuine filmmaker.
To Smith’s credit Jersey Girl is well written and has his signature clearly stamped upon it. Considering how different it is to the rest of his work it’s quite an achievement. And despite occasionally relying on clichéd methods of plot development it remains enjoyable throughout.
Affleck, Smith’s constant alter ego, plays a fairly complex role with an admirable degree of conviction and impresses as he is clearly just outside of his usual comfort zone. Youngster Castro also impresses in her first big screen role.
Perhaps not an obvious choice for the role Liv Tyler plays a straight-talking video store clerk and acts as a love interest for Affleck once Lopez’s cameo is over. Tyler’s beautiful-yet-quirky nature is actually perfect. It’s reminiscent of her captivating performance in One Night At McCools. Whilst she also shares far better chemistry with Affleck than Lopez does.
Smith has never been praised for his straightforward style of direction and economic camerawork. Miramax therefore no doubt insisted upon a new approach for a film that clearly aspires to have mainstream appeal. With this in mind Vilmos Zsigmond has been appointed as cinematographer. And the 73-year-old Hungarian, a veteran of almost 70 films, ensures Jersey Girl has a smart appearance.
Jersey Girl might not be the film that every Kevin Smith fan wanted to see but it’s an admirable, and genuinely good-hearted, attempt from Smith to make a film concerning a subject that’s clearly important to him.