PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Oliver “Ollie” Trinké (Ben Affleck) is a powerful media publicist in New York City whose wife, Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez), dies during childbirth. To avoid his grief, he buries himself in his work and ignores his new daughter, Gertie, while his father, Bart (George Carlin), takes a month off from work to care for her, but returns so that his son is forced to live up to his responsibility as a parent. Under the stress of a botched diaper change and a baby who will not stop crying, Ollie trashes his client Will Smith for his soon-to-be released film Independence Day in front of assembled reporters. The outburst costs him his job, so he moves in with his father in New Jersey. He eventually apologizes for ignoring his daughter, and attributes his public outburst to his grief.
Blacklisted by all of New York City’s public relations firms, Ollie has to work as a civil servant in the borough where he now lives with his father. Seven years later, Gertie (Raquel Castro), now in elementary school, often coaxes him to rent films to watch. At the video store, they meet Maya (Liv Tyler), one of the store’s clerks, whose uninhibited probing into Ollie’s love life almost leads to them having casual sex. She soon becomes a part of their lives.
As part of his job in the borough, Ollie speaks to a group of outraged citizens to win over their approval for a major public works project that will temporarily close a street in the neighborhood. His successful and enjoyable interaction with the crowd leads him to realize how much he misses the public relations work. He contacts Arthur (Jason Biggs), his one-time protégé, who sets up a promising interview.
The prospect of moving to New York creates tension among Ollie, Gertie, Bart, and Maya, especially when he says that his interview is on the same day as Gertie’s school talent show. She yells at him, saying she hates him and that she wishes he had died instead of her mom. He claims he hates her right back, and says she and Gertrude took his life away and he just wants it back. He immediately regrets it and tries to apologize, but the damage is done and she pushes him away and runs to her room, crying. A few days later he and Gertie finally patch things up, and she accepts the fact that they will be moving to New York. While waiting to be interviewed, he has a chance encounter with Will Smith (playing himself), the man he trashed at his public outburst years before. Smith has no idea who Ollie is, but the two spark a conversation about work and children.
Ollie is able to make it to Gertie’s Sweeney Todd performance at the last moment. The film ends with him, Gertie, Bart, Maya, and the rest celebrating at the bar. He and Maya hint at possible feelings for each other before being interrupted by Gertie. He holds her and says that they are staying in New Jersey because he did not take the job. She asks why he did so if he loved it so much. He says that he thought he did, but he loved his new life more because being a father to her was the only thing that he was ever really good at.
One of the hottest directors of the mid 90s and early 2000s was Kevin Smith. He brought something new to films that hadn’t really been seen since the days of Woody Allen, a love for his hometown (or state in this case) and a passion to show real people problems not some exaggerated lifestyle like we normally see in movies and television. All this is not to even mention Jay and Silent Bob! However, as stated in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith couldn’t rely on “dick and fart jokes the rest of his life.” Jersey Girl was his first foray outside of the ViewAskew universe. Was it worth the trip, or should Smith go back and stay there?
What is this about?
When a music publicist suddenly faces single fatherhood and a defunct career, only a new love and his daughter’s courage can help him bounce back.
What did I like?
The feels. Remember Up? Almost everyone I know (male and female) have breakdowns watching the first 20 minutes or so of that film. You know the part where they show Ellie growing up and eventually passing away. That same sucker punch to the gut happens in the beginning of this film. We get to know a little bit about Jennifer Lopez’s character, how she met Ben Affleck’s characters, their relationship, etc. Then, tragedy strikes! I guess if you consider Kevin Smith’s other films up to this date, he needed to do something to have people take him and this film seriously. If that is the case, then this is a great way to start!
With a little help from your friends. In every Kevin Smith movie, with the exception of Red State and perhaps this new one he has coming out soon, you can be guaranteed to see certain actors because of his friendship with them. Ben Affleck and Jason Lee are the most closely associated with this phenomenon, if you will. Lee has a small cameo in here (with Matt Damon), but this is the second film where Affleck is the star. The other being Chasing Amy and a case could be made for Dogma. Isn’t it good to have friends like Affleck, Damon, Lee (who was just starting My Name is Earl when this was filmed, I believe), and can call in names like Jason Biggs, George Carlin, Jennifer Lopez, dig up Lady Aberlin from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and somehow land Will Smith in your film?
Meat pies. One of the reason I knew anything about Sweeney Todd when it was released, was because of this movie. The fact that an 8-year-old girl knows about this musical and wants to perform it on stage was awesome. Never mind the fact that it was, as best as I could tell, a Catholic school. Now, try getting away with that today and they’ll have the parental units tarred and feathered, but when everyone is doing “Memory” from Cats, you’re more than happy to make an exception. I’m sure glad Smith decided to not make us listen to all those renditions. I’m not sure the audience could take it!
What didn’t I like?
Liv a little. Liv Tyler is one of the most beautiful and talented actresses around, even if she can’t sing. You would think that since she’s the new found love interest for Affleck’s character, she’s have been given something juicy to do, but that is not to be the case. She has one “typical female” scene, as a friend called it when we saw this years ago, where she spews out a string of emotions toward Affleck. Other than that, she is mostly used as a female presence to replace Jennifer Lopez.
Cameo. The whole reason for the fall of Affleck’s character (he loses his job and has to move in with his father in New Jersey) is because he has a complete blow up in front of a room full of impatient, petulant reporters clamoring for Will Smith to show. Near the film’s conclusion, Smith makes a cameo appearance in a waiting room. This seems like it would be the perfect place for a confrontation, with vitriol coming from one side or the other. Instead, it just turns into a couple of guys talking about their kids, which isn’t bad, especially because of what happens because of their little talk. It just seems that there should have been some kind of conflict there, especially from Affleck, but maybe that’s just me wishing for a fight.
He’s just not ready. Before this, Chasing Amy was Kevin Smith’s most “mature” picture, and even that has ass and titty jokes, not to mention all the juvenile ways it went about discussing the varying acts of love making as a lesbian. That point aside, there is obvious growth between then and this film, but I still don’t think Smith is ready to make these serious pictures. The man obviously knows how to tell a story, even one that tugs at your heartstrings, but the whole time I was watching this I couldn’t help but think that with all the comedy, he was holding back something vulgar or obscene. A couple more films like this, though, and Smith should be ready to be taken seriously.
Here’s a tidbit of trivia for you all. The titular Jersey Girl, played by Raquel Castro, appeared on a season of The Voice. If I’m not mistaken, she was chosen for Christina Aguillera’s team, but didn’t make it to the final. So see, even though critics panned this film almost as much as Gigli (I guess they had something against Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez), it hasn’t hurt anyone. Hell, Affleck has gone to become one of the best directors around today and is about to be Batman, so there you go. As far as this film goes, for me it is one of those films you never forget. Is it the best? No, but in the same breath I have to say that it is far from as bad as the critics want you to believe. I enjoy this film everytime I watch it and recommend that you give it a shot sometime.
3 3/4 out of 5 stars