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Good Dick
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by Erik Childress

"A Little Something To Bring Men And Women Together"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2008 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: True romance is hard enough to find amongst the daily grind of reality, so its more than a little disconcerting when the movies have trouble locating it as well. So often they screw it up with an easily digestible package of bickering soulmates and false positives posing as happily ever afters. Rare is the film that can actually take a burgeoning relationship seriously and still possess enough charm to make us smile and laugh through the rough patches. Debuting writer/director Marianna Palka has done just that with a film whose title is more than just an easy punchline for habitual jokesters and prudes without the foresight to look past it. Like love itself, once they accept it, they will be treated to a unique, fulfilling experience that is as strange as it is beautiful.

Taking a cue from the beautiful Irish musical, Once, and at least a line of dialogue from the land of Notting Hill, we will meet a pair of nameless souls in their isolated little corners. The guy is played by Jason Ritter, a clerk in the most overemployed video store since, well, possibly Michel Gondry’s forthcoming Be Kind Rewind. His friends and co-workers include Eric (Eric Edelstein), Derek (Mark Webber) and Simon (Martin Starr) but their nightly contemplations don’t compare to the interest he shows when the mysterious customer (Marianna Palka, also fulfilling her female lead) arrives here and then to rent nothing but obscure porn and say even less. With nowhere else to go but his car every night, he decides to look her up even though it’s clear she’d rather not be found.

Using privileged information such as a home address may hardly endear this guy to anyone who cherishes privacy or eager to use the term “creepy”, but as I’ve reminded many before and will continue to, technically Romeo was a stalker too. She reacts as such though, not wanting to be bothered and left to her own solitude to masturbate in peace, but he continues pursuing even after she tells him to get lost. In his efforts to prove to her (and us) that he’s harmless, he abides by her requests (even at knifepoint) to not get closer and yet finds their proximity inching together with each evening spent.

The slow dance that develops between his persistence and her thawing is one that requires patience from an audience expecting big soundtrack cues or unwilling to accept a courtship that isn’t defined by the characters verbalizing every emotion at every second in which they are had. Nevertheless, it is one that nearly blindsides us with moments of such genuine thoughtfulness and surprises that wouldn’t be out-of-place in a script by Cameron Crowe or Richard Curtis. Ritter’s exit line during one of many peculiar ends to an evening has the matter-of-factness of a Lloyd Dobler while the out-of-left-field abruptness of Palka’s signaling she may finally be ready for the next stage of their friendship is a quirkily baffling bit of shock humor that is handled with such grace on the part of the two actors that its hard not to applaud their ability to pull it off.

Good Dick just doesn’t work without the presence of Jason Ritter and Marianna Palka who smartly just underplay the manic compulsiveness and reclusiveness of their characters. Palka is like the dominatrix who never heard of the word, barking her demands of respect – even if those demands are just to be ignored – and Ritter is the lovelorn puppy dog trying not to make any sudden movements that will get him jettisoned from her life forever. Their backstories are cautiously sprinkled throughout the film and will help to explain their behavior particularly on a second viewing. Ritter’s clerk has solved some personal demons and if you’re familiar with the steps involved you may conclude that he’s at a point in his life where he's ready for this quest. Palka’s is more complicated and ultimately more spelled out, but handled with a delicacy that earns the film’s final silent declaration.

Similar to Lost In Translation’s, it’s a whisper that bypasses the obligatory “I love you’s” even if it couldn’t be announced with greater authority in its implicitness. The indie scene has produced some of the more beautiful relationship stories of the past five years from Sofia Coppola’s film to Zach Braff’s Garden State and the aforementioned Once. Those who discovered Miranda July’s delightful Me and You and Everyone We Know will find a kinship near its equal in Good Dick. As for its title, Palka isn’t reaching for some snarky independent spirit that out-hips the squareness of its competitors. There’s a deeper meaning to it even if all the talk about avoiding penises is more than enough to clue you into Palka’s neuroses. What I will only hint at though is how lovely and unexpected her film is, simple to the eyes but penetrating to the heart and breaking through the other side with fresh talent to spare from both Palka and Ritter. Their occasionally tortuous romance may be more than some are willing to take, but what great love story doesn’t develop without a little bit of pain and a whole lot of laughs?

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=16887&reviewer=198
originally posted: 01/26/08 18:52:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2008 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/14/10 lorrie this was a very moving darker love story 5 stars
9/02/10 Norah Morgan Offbeat, sensitive, incredibly moving 5 stars
8/14/09 The Great Lee Card Wow, Powerful, righteous, meaningful 5 stars
1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Awesome Story! 5 stars
1/21/08 emily cassia spectacular 5 stars
1/21/08 Sarah Olson Loved it!!!!!!! 5 stars
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  10-Oct-2008 (R)
  DVD: 01-Sep-2009


  DVD: 01-Sep-2009

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Marianna Palka

Written by
  Marianna Palka

  Jason Ritter
  Marianna Palka
  Tom Arnold
  Mark Webber
  Martin Starr
  Eric Edelstein

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