Perhaps one of the most excruciatingly embarrassing episodes in recent Hollywood history was the Ben Affleck/Jennifer Lopez ‘love story’ – or perhaps better worded as the Bennifer debacle’. It was pure showbiz trite that delighted entertainment columnists on a global basis who, armed with venomous words, provided endless scorn aimed at the ridiculous and farcical relationship.
However, those of you who were brave enough to endure the laughable Gigli should not be dissuaded from seeing this innocent and mildly amusing comedy from director/writer Kevin Smith. Fans of the New Jersey filmmaker should be warned though – he has taken a slice out of Hollywood cheese and aimed it at the mainstream public, and it doesn’t taste as wholesome as we hoped it would.
Ben Affleck plays Ollie Trinkie, an arrogant but successful Manhattan music publicist, who is married to an equally successful book editor (an effective but short performance from Jennifer Lopez.) Tragedy happens when his wife dies during childbirth and Trinkie is fired from his job after he launches a tirade of abuse at Will Smith and the journalists present during a press conference.
As an unwitting and unemployed father, Trinkie heads back to his blue-collar background in New Jersey and works alongside his dad (George Carlin) as a maintenance worker. Seven years after his wife’s premature death, Trinkie meets Maya (Liv Tyler), a bubbly video clerk. The pair become friends and love soon blossoms as they rehearse for his daughters school musical.
Surprisingly Lopez is rather likable as the young and successful city wife, while Affleck flounders at what could have been a moving performance – instead he is typically wooden and unmoving. The adorable Raquel Castro gives an admirable performance for such a long and heavy role. Yet despite offering some charming moments, she can sometimes overcook the sentimentally, especially in scenes with Affleck which are far too twee and will either make you cringe or divert your eyes.
It’s Liv Tyler who steals the show, she is simply scrumptious as the ditzy but adorable clerk. There are also cameos from Stephen Root, Jason Biggs, Matt Damon and Will Smith.
There is something very un-Kevin Smith about Jersey Girl: the complete lack of Star Wars references, the heavy doses of sentimentality, and the discreet humour all contribute to his attempts to break into the mainstream. Unfortunately it feels more like a TV-movie drama than a comedy and the humour is rarely effective; for the most part hardly raising more than a slight smile and a quiet chuckle.
Jersey Girl is Smith’s grown-up movie that fails to be completely effective due to a formulaic story and lack of chemistry between Affleck and Tyler. Perhaps Smith needs to bring back Jay and Silent Bob because with films like this he’ll never pick up the box-office gold. Jersey Girl is an amusing if forgettable and terribly clichd film – but it is not as poor as widely believed.