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Culture Reviews
Jersey Girl / By K.Smith /
Tchaikovsky Cultural Center 
By Ryan Macalino
Jersey Girl marks writer-director Kevin Smith’s first foray into conventional cinema. At the risk of sounding harsh, he comes up with, well… less-than-conventional results. In an effort to reveal to the world a kindler and gentler version of himself, he presents a mainstream family/romantic comedy which is undoubtedly sincere yet in spite of all of its melodrama lacks any true emotional impact. A note to long-time fans: sorry folks, no Jay & Silent Bob this time!

The movie revolves around the life of Ollie Trinke, played by Ben Affleck. The exciting early scenes depict Trinke as a guy who has it all: a hotshot yuppie publicist making lots of money and adored by many, while being happily married to a woman that looks exactly like J-Lo. But all good things must come to an end, however, and his wife dies unexpectedly during childbirth. The sudden loss and inability to adjust becomes too much for Trinke, and he ends up ruining his career in the process.

Flash forward seven years later, and we find Trinke living and working with his dad (George Carlin) as a street cleaner in a New Jersey suburb. He is basically stuck, having tried numerous times to resurrect his PR career with frequent trips to the city while working and raising his daughter Gertie (Raquel Castro). Trinke still hasn’t gotten over the grief of losing his wife and has remained celibate for years, until a conversation with candid video store clerk named Maya (Liv Tyler) becomes the likely catalyst for change in Trinke’s life.

We’ve all seen this kind of movie before, where the story was mainly about the main character and the circumstances and decisions that govern his/her life. The most notable example I can think about is Brett Ratner’s Family Man, which was also his first-turn into the genre (prior to this he only made action comedies). However, in comparing the two clich?-ridden movies, Family Man just had the right mix; Jersey Girl ultimately sinks in its own syrupy, cheesy, mushy mess.

Don’t let that deter you however! The performances were good enough to keep the movie going on pace. Affleck is surprisingly good, and his scenes with then-fianc?e Jennifer Lopez are great entertainment. In a departure of sorts, George Carlin plays the dad part so well you wonder if he’s even acting at all. Smith also might have found perfection in Liv Tyler, who plays the role of Maya with poise that only she could provide. Tyler contains all of the qualities that Smith infuses in all of his female leads – the sexual openness, emotional receptiveness, and flowery choice of language – and wraps them around her indelible charm.

The standout role of this movie however, has to go to the adorable newcomer Raquel Castro. Playing the titular Jersey Girl herself, she effortlessly steals absolutely every scene she’s put in. She’s probably the cutest kid to be cast in a movie since that bushy-haired nerdy kid from Jerry Maguire. Add the fact that she may look like Jennifer Lopez but can act so much better, and it’s easy to see that she has a great career in the making.

A film like Jersey Girl requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief, mainly because of all the clich?s that it relies on for dramatic effect. I mean, how many times in movie history has the main character faced a pivotal decision near the end of the movie, only to go on a mad rush back after realizing that he was wrong? Being a long-time fan, I simply have a tough time accepting the arrival of the PG-13 Kevin Smith, but I understand and commend him for his effort to present a movie that stands apart from his original Jersey Five.

It’s easy to see that this movie was meant to be a labour of love to his daughter Harley, and it will probably be the first movie of his that she’ll be allowed to watch. So if you want sappy family entertainment, you won’t be disappointed with this movie. But as for me, I’ll take his R-rated Chasing Amy instead, thank you very much.

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