From the very beginning writer/director Matt Aselton wants to make a statement with his first film, Gigantic. The tiny title letters belying the largesse of the title itself right away appears to be telling you that the film will go against any expectations. It’s a brave independent piece of cinema that exhibits ton of promise and potential that is never fully woven together coherently enough to satisfy even the most art house of audiences. Taking his cues from such iconic directors as Woody Allen, Aselton doesn’t demonstrate the experience or maturity level to take what makes perfect sense in his own mind and translate it so that an outsider can completely understand what he’s trying to say. It’s unfortunate, really, because the film contains some rather clever ideas and certainly a top notch cast. There’s a future in this business for Matt Aselton, but that future isn’t now, and it’s not with Gigantic.
Brian (Dano) works at a high end mattress store called The Sandman. The first real incoherency can be found here in the store. They sell mattresses that are tens of thousands of dollars, but the store is a dirty brick walled loft. The merchandise is certainly not well displayed, and no one who works there seems terribly interested in selling the bedding. Brian is trying to raise money to adopt a Chinese baby. No explanation as to why the young single man wants to do this other than it’s something he’s always wanted to do. Nothing in his personality appears at all consistent with the desire, and his game plan is remarkably nonexistent. He doesn’t have the means or the emotional maturity to take on the task, yet he appears to be making great progress with the adoption procedure.
Into the store struts rich fat cat and hypochondriac, Al Lolly (Goodman). He makes it known he doesn’t have time for chit chat. He just wants the best bed he can get, and money doesn’t seem to be an object. He settles on a $14,000 bed and explains that his daughter will be in later to pay for the bed and arrange delivery. He’s rude, and he’s a bigot. When young Happy (Deschanel) arrives, she is dead on her feet and ends up falling asleep on the newly purchased bed. I know I keep going back and forth between bed and mattress, because the script does so. It’s never clear exactly what Big Al’s getting for his 14 grand. When Brian delivers the bed/mattress, Al asks him to take him for a doctor appointment, where Happy out of nowhere asks him if he has a desire to have sex with her, right then in Daddy’s car. From there the script gets quite fuzzy, and the rest of the film wanders quite a bit between these characters.
Watching John Goodman, he’s a cross between Archie Bunker and Ralph Kramden. It looks like he’s having a blast with the part, and it’s easy to see why he took the job, even with the script mess. In fact all of the actors appear to be enjoying their little character studies, even if they all appear to be acting on different worlds. Ed Asner makes a charming appearance as Brian’s dad, who likes to go hunting for psychedelic mushrooms. Zooey Deschanel is quite charming, but I have no idea who her character really is. I’m afraid she was just as equally in the dark. She’s a lovely young actress with a ton of talent who always seems to get mixed up in some pretty bad roles. Paul Dano was coming off a pretty wild ride in There Will Be Blood as the disturbed preacher, Eli. I can see why something this reserved might have been necessary for him. Overall it’s all a wonderful collection of characters and moments that are never brought together. The backdrop of New York City is an effective location, but again, what the heck is the whole thing about? The two leads have this relationship that is never really defined. What exactly is the point of their attraction? We don’t really get to see them ever actually fall for each other. Bottom line, a film shouldn’t have this many question marks in its review.
Gigantic is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Unfortunately this really is a pretty bad transfer. Tons of compression artifacts, shimmering, and weak black levels are just the beginning of this disc’s troubles. Colors are, likely intended to be, soft. The noise level is quite distracting, as if this one wasn’t hard to follow as it is.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track might as well be a simple stereo presentation. It’s completely dialog driven. In fact there’s a 2.0 track included as well, and for the life of me I don’t think I could tell the difference outside of just a little more gain on the 5.1 version. Either way there’s not a lot of power here, requiring higher levels on your receiver.
Deleted/Extended Scenes: There are about 3 and a half minutes of stuff here. Nothing to write home, or a review, about.
Stills Gallery and Trailer
I had a chance to talk to director Matt Aselton a few days ago. That interview will be available shortly as a podcast here at Upcomingdiscs. He’s a very pleasant guy with his head in the right place. I gotta believe that he’s still on a wide learning curve. Obviously the talented cast saw something here that just didn’t translate on the screen. What we end up with is what I can only describe as a series of snapshots of these characters’ lives. What else did I find? “Oh, depression, sleep deprivation…the usual.”