David Gordon Greenís follow-up to his 2000 debut, George Washington, was honored for its "emotional truth" at this yearís Sundance Film Festival. Certainly the filmís earnest attempt at a fresh love story sets it apart. But Greenís leaden-paced look at inarticulate average Joes in a rural mill town probably wonít thrill many filmgoers outside the Park City borders.
Not that there isnít occasional visual poetry in All the Real Girls. Its North Carolina setting is the cinematic cousin to The Last Picture Showís bleak Texas town, where people are mired in lost dreams and dead-end lives. But the story itself is mundane. Paul (played by Greenís co-writer, Paul Schneider), a 22-year-old slacker and unconvincing lothario, falls for Noel (Zooey Deschanel), the teenage sister of his best friend, and she wins and then breaks the reformed studís heart. In probing the dynamics of experience versus innocence, and the way the two lovers slowly swap roles, the film mixes lyrical romanticism with downbeat naturalism. But Green and his improvising actors fail to make the banal musings of these inarticulate characters interesting, let alone revealing.
Unlike Hilary Birminghamís recent Tully, which explores similar terrain more naturally and effectively, All the Real Girls grows pretentious in its arty lack of pretension. Greenís mannered style condescends to his "ordinary" characters ó and to an audience that should not mistake dressed-down sentimentality for emotional truth. (108 minutes)