May 3, 2009

He seems so nice, why are you trying to kill him?

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In Mark Aselton's (writer and director) first feature film Gigantic, Brian Weathersby sells mattresses - high end, Swedish mattresses. He's also trying to adopt a Chinese baby. Oh. And he's being hunted by an assassin.

Brian, played by Paul Dano, sells a mattress to rich man Al Lolly (John Goodman), which is then paid for by Lolly's daughter, Happy (Zooey Deschanel). Brian and Happy fall in lust, in possibly the most tame manner I've ever seen: "Do you have any interest in having sex with me?" says Happy. "Um yeah," says Brian.

Brian is on the waiting list to adopt a baby from China, something he's wanted to do his whole life, all 28 years of it. But somewhere else in those 28 years, something must have happened to make the random guy with the beard, hiding around every corner, very angry. Because he keeps trying to kill Brian.

The assassin is a somewhat random storyline that is never explained. Or even discussed at all. It adds a little mysterious depth to Brian's character - knowing that there's a dark side to this seemingly average man. The spurts of violence are shocking to the quirky little love story. And they make it not so typically-indie-film-quirky. At times it's almost like watching two different movies - a love story and a thriller. Which isn't altogether bad - could be a perfect date movie.

The scenes, when Brian and Happy are falling for each other, a song plays loudly - "I want to see the bright lights tonight." It reminded me of a scene from The OC, the first season when Seth sees Summer's breasts for the first time and a song bursts out about sunshine. It's youthful, carefree and optimistic. The bright lights don't include assassins - the bright lights are their moments of bliss.

Brian is perhaps a grown up version of the character Paul Dano played in Little Miss Sunshine, still brooding and solitary and quiet, but subtly dependent on family. His family, Ed Asner as his father and Jane Alexander as his mother, are supportive and almost apologetic for having him so late in life. They are as excited about the baby as Brian is - it's sort of refreshing, as opposed to the constant familial conflict we are so often exposed to in movies and TV.

But I still don't understand why someone's trying to kill Brian. He seems like a nice guy. I mean, he wants to adopt a Chinese baby, for heaven's sake.

The movie clips along for 98 minutes at a good pace. The scenes are bright and colorful, the music loud and punctuating. It's a good effort for a first film - not perfect, but interesting and well acted - an indie romantic flick with some violent attacks, especially for your testosterone needs.

Verdict: Thumbs Up.

Rated R, 98 minutes long. Currently playing at the Regal Fox Tower in Portland.