Ollie Trinke (Ben Affleck) is a successful publicist in New York City and his wife Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez) is about to give birth to their first child. Gertrude dies shortly after their daughter is born, leaving Ollie to cope with a high-pressure job and the demands of fatherhood. After publicly insulting his own client, Ollie is fired and returns to live in New Jersey with his working class father Bart (George Carlin). Taking a job on the council and dedicating himself to raising young Gertie (Raquel Castro), Ollie remains celibate for seven years. When he meets disarmingly honest video store worker Carla (Liv Tyler), Ollie finally begins to entertain the possibility of romance again.
Review by Richard Kuipers:
Jersey Girl obeys the classic conventions of romantic comedy but there are ingredients in this mix that raise it a notch above average. For starters there's Ben Affleck losing the smirk that too often makes him an unappealing leading man. An actor who can excel with firm direction, Affleck turns in a fine performance here under the watchful eye of Kevin Smith who also extracted the best from his frequent star in Chasing Amy and Dogma. Affleck fits the role of hot-shot publicist Ollie Trinke, who's at the top of his game in the Big Apple when tragedy strikes.
In the first of many twists and turns on the standard format, it's Jennifer Lopez - as Ollie's wife Gertrude - who dies in the first reel, leaving Ollie a widower and forcing him to raise new-born daughter Gertie alone. To cast an A-list superstar in such a brief role is daring, particularly given that Lopez and Affleck were very much a romantic item at the time.
It's a clever move because their scenes together are so convincing we can easily believe that handsome Ben Affleck would not look at another woman for the seven years that pass after he ruins his career and moves back to New Jersey to live with his no-nonsense father Bart (George Carlin). Ollie may not have dated in all that time but he's not above renting a few porno movies while visiting the video store with Gertie (Raquel Castro).
At this point we're all thinking about Ollie's nocturnal activities but we don't expect anything to be said out loud. That's before video store clerk Maya (Liv Tyler) says exactly what's on our minds and playfully forces Ollie to admit, among other things, he's been celibate for seven years.
With disarming confidence, Maya suggests they remedy the situation but the clever screenplay doesn't want to make things as simple as that and we're led in many unexpected directions as these New Jersey natives negotiate their way around the subject. Tyler is a delight in this role. She's been miscast so often as a sex-bomb and it's a joy to watch her cheeky flirtations that force Ollie to take stock of his life. Yes, there's the scene in which Ollie rushes desperately to see Gertie perform at the school play and there's the usual debate about small-town life versus big city living, but in the smaller, intimate details of how family and friends relate to each other this is wise and often achingly truthful.
Written and directed by Kevin Smith (Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) and based on his own experiences of fatherhood, Jersey Girl takes the fluff out of romantic comedy and replaces it with a heart and substance that's hard not to be touched by.
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JERSEY GIRL (M)
CAST: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Liv Tyler, George Carlin, Betty Aberlin, Jeff Anderson, Jason Biggs, Matt Damon, Jason Lee, Jason Mewes
PRODUCER: Scott Mosier
DIRECTOR: Kevin Smith
SCRIPT: Kevin Smith
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Vilmos Zsigmond
EDITOR: Scott Mosier, Kevin Smith
MUSIC: Robert Smith, James L. Venable
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Holtzman
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 12, 2004
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.