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All the Real Girls ****
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Paul:  Paul Schneider
Noel:  Zooey Deschanel
Tip:  Shea Whigham
Written and directed by David Gordon Green

"I like the way your chin smells."

All the Real Girls might be the first real romance played out on film.  Before Sunrise was great, but the two main characters were philosophizing chatter boxes.  Punch Drunk Love held real truth in the aspects of the romance it portrayed, namely the way two people can make each other better people, but the plot was so absurd that we laughed at the comedy.  Titanic was on a sinking ocean liner (which really happened, I know; but dont you think it might have sensationalized the romance?).  Strip down the excess and you have the naturalistic approach to every facet of romance.  Strip down the excess and you have All the Real Girls.

The romance is between Paul (Paul Schneider), a small-town everyman except that hes hooked up with every woman in that small town and ditched them, and Noel, the sister of Pauls best friend Tip (Shea Whigham).  Tip is angered to find the two have something going on just as any good brother would be if he knew the colorful sexual exploits of the man making the moves.  Problem is, the audience is immediately in love with the couple as a couple, and Paul is a charmer with his awkward love speeches while Noel is eloquent in hers.  Even if Paul was a jerk, and we learn from his own admittance that he was, we like him now.  We like the couple now. 

But like everything in life, romance bends and can break when we least want it to.  The gentle climb and quick crash of the romance is played with a captivating realism and seemingly unconscious effort to make the characters do, say, and feel the way people, real people, do when life bends for them.

Schneider, an actor completely new to me, is a real find amongst the bevy of Hollywood it boys.  This one can actually act and do it with the charm and skill that hasnt been seen since the character-driven films of the 70s.  All the Real Girls' Paul is not the real Paul Schneider, as revealed in an insightful featurette on the DVD.  He creates and holds a unique character down to the mannerisms and speech that is not his own.  I just want to see what Schneider does next.  I pray it isnt one of the Hollywood it boy movies where he has to drive fast cars and wear tank tops.

Deschanel, making her climb to the B-list with a turn in Elf, is a great actress.  She's the kind of great actress that will never headline a studio film, win an Oscar, or be on any magazines Most Powerful in Hollywood list.  Her work in Almost Famous, The Good Girl and now All the Real Girls showcases an original talent so far untouched by the studios' sensibilities.  Her work as Noel, like Schneider's as Paul, is full of gut-retching emotion and nuances that still kill me months after first seeing the film.

The biggest asset to the film must be writer and director David Gordon Green.  First of all, who is this guy?  Where did he get all this talent?  What possessed a young director to make a romance drama so natural and believable that no one saw it?  I wish I knew.  I do know that his work on All the Real Girls marks the exciting entrance of a major new talent into cinema.  I'm so glad he came.



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