By Jess Lomas
March 12, 2014
Play It Again is a weekly feature in which our classic-film connoisseurs revisit a revered motion picture from the annals of movie history, to see if it holds up… or if it has aged terribly. And yes, it takes its name from a famously misquoted Casablanca line. Hey, whatever. It fits!
The modern trends when it comes to cinematic love usually involve a triangle, an all encompassing romance where the world comes second to the couple’s passion, or a combination of supernatural creatures balancing their fight against evil with their teenage hormones. Director David Gordon Green’s All the Real Girls offers us a refreshing and realistic portrait of young love cemented in naivety and discovery.
Paul (Paul Schneider) is known as a ladies’ man, bedding a large percentage of his small town’s population and working for his uncle fixing cars. When his best friend Tip’s (Shea Whigham) little sister Noel (Zooey Deschanel) returns home from boarding school, the two form an unlikely union. She’s a virgin and her brother warns her against getting involved with Paul, who will likely use her and break her heart. Despite this the pair bond, driving a wedge between Paul and Tip, and alarming Paul’s mother (Patricia Clarkson), who doesn’t believe in her son’s newfound happiness.
The film moves at a glacial pace, dedicating time to conversations between the couple instead of sharp plot movement. They open up with one another in ways they haven’t with anyone else. Noel shares secrets from the past, while Paul discovers he is capable of loving another without giving in to sex. Ultimately their reserved relationship causes Noel to act out, forever changing their story.
Green wrote the screenplay based on his and Schneider’s story, with Schneider’s performance still standing as a highlight of his career to date. Deschanel, who has since succumbed to typecasting as the ditzy dream girl, gives a rare turn as the vulnerable and fragile Noel, earning our admiration despite her character’s misguided decisions.
The supporting cast also make this a memorable indie, with Danny McBride delivering his usual charm and humour as the slightly dim-witted friend Bust-Ass and Clarkson’s hopeless Elvira giving the movie a much-needed foundation to support the inexperience of others. All the Real Girls is as genuine as they come. Against the picturesque landscapes of small town life, Paul and Noel’s story of first love found and lost is beautiful and shattering.
All the Real Girls is available on Quickflix.