The following is an interview conducted by the excellent DarkCityDame on her website Noirish City as part of our examination of my 30 favorite movies of the 2000s. She's given me permission to reprint a few interviews as part of filmicability, so here's a look at my 29th favorite film of the decade All The Real Girls.
DarkCityDame: Okay! First of all, I did watch the film All Real Girls last night.
Dean: Cool. I watched it, too. It was only my second time seeing it I think I might have appreciated it even more this time. Knowing the pace and style of the movie beforehand is probably beneficial to a second viewing. Tell me what you thought about it.
DarkCityDame: It was very interesting! It really focused on life in that small community in detail.
Dean: Yeah, it’s set in a North Carolina mill town. That’s where the director and the lead actor are originally from. It's does have a wide scope in terms of its characters--there are about 10 main characters in it, and about 20 secondary ones. But its main focus is on the beginning of this romance between the two leads, Paul and Noel, played by Paul Schnieder and Zooey Deschanel.
DarkCityDame: Why did you select this film to be included as one of your top 30 films from the 2000s?
Dean: Well, I was a big fan of writer/director David Gordon Green's first feature George Washington, made in 2000. But I found that 2003's All The Real Girls touched me more deeply. In most love stories that Hollywood makes, the two characters meet and just immediately fall in love. There's no time taken to see WHY they fall for each other. It's just assumed that, because they're both so hot or whatever, that, hey, OF COURSE they'd be lovers. But in All The Real Girls, we get a captivating, very natural progression of a romance, from its initiation, to its flowering, its conflict, and its shaky but ultimately firm continuation. Let's put on top of that the incredible ensemble cast, the gorgeous cinematography by Tim Orr, and the moody score by Michael Linnen and David Wingo, and you've got quite a film. I find that to be enough for me to include it as not only one of the best movies of the 2000s, but as one of the best romances ever to hit the screen. I mean, have you ever seen a movie that treated a love affair with such attention to detail?
DarkCityDame: In a word: No!
Dean: Yeah, I mean, right from the first scene, where we see Paul (Paul Schnieder) and Noel (Zooey Deschanel) struggling over their first kiss, we know we're gonna see something special. I love how he says he's afraid to kiss her, and she says “Well I don’t wanna be with someone who’s afraid to be with me.” And then she offers her hand to him to kiss first, and he nervously looks around to see if anyone is watching and he blows on her palm, wipes it off and kisses it gently. It's so incredibly sweet.
DarkCityDame: But it seems all the characters have past issues to deal with, too…
Dean: This is true. Everybody in it carries some sort of crippling fear along with them. Paul’s afraid of commitment (he's been with every girl in town), Noel fears her inexperience, Paul's best friend Tip (Shea Wigham) fears growing up, Paul's mother (Patricia Clarkson) fears getting older and being alone, there’s a mechanic who seems to fear death. It's as much a movie about dread as it is about romance. I feel that's extremely real and creative. Again, another choice that the average romantic film wouldn’t take.
DarkCityDame: But I also wonder by the end of the film, were their problems truly addressed?
Dean: Well, the conclusion is a bit open-ended...
DarkCityDame: Yeah, I thought so!
Dean: I think the viewer has to read between the lines and come to their own conclusions as to where this relationship is going. I personally felt that it was going to all be okay--that these two characters had really clicked with each other and that they were really sincere about working hard on their faults so that their love could succeed. You know, you’ll find that I tend to like open-ended movies, mainly because life itself is open-ended. It doesn't end...until it does, know what I mean?
DarkCityDame: Oh, yeah!
Dean: So I liked that David Gordon Green didn't tie everything up with a nice little bow. DarkCityDame: I agree. People don't usually live happily ever after!
Dean: No, there's always something tough for us to work on.
DarkCityDame: Well, at least, the characters in the films certainly exhibited that!
Dean: Yeah, Paul particularly has some difficult things to deal with--his heart is pretty tender, since he'd never given of himself enough in any relationship to allow it to be broken. So when it gets taxed, as it does in the film, he has a tendency to not know how to react except through self-destruction. DarkCityDame: I noticed that. For instance, near the end of the picture when Paul dresses up nice in order to go and visit Noel and find her in a friendly situation of just cooking macaroni with one of his friends. He goes outside and smashes his hand through his car window.
Dean: Yeah, he just can't handle his own jealousy, which we have to point out, is a feeling he's never experienced before, since he's never really cared about a woman enough to be jealous over her. In a way, he's as inexperienced in romance as Noel is. Noel, on the other hand, has to deal with her lack of experience with men and the notion that she hasn't been around that much, and now that she finds herself in true love, that means she might have to give up on the kinds of wild experiences she sees her friends getting into. So they're both innocents.
DarkCityDame: I agree.
Dean: How did you like the performances in it?
DarkCityDame: I thought that they were quite natural and down to earth! Dean: Very much so. I'm a big fan of both of the two leads. I have a huge crush on Zooey Deschanel as a result of the movie. I first noticed her in The Good Girl with Jennifer Anniston and Jake Gyllenhall. I thought she was hilarious in that. And I've paid special attention to Paul Schneider since this film. He's gone on to be in The Assassination of Jesse James, Elizabethtown, Lars and the Real Girl, and he'll have two movies out in 2009, one by Sam Mendes and another by Jane Campion. And I found the film very funny at times too. One of Paul's friends is named Bust-Ass, and he's played by an actor named Danny McBride. McBride's in Pineapple Express, the comedy with Seth Rogen and James Franco (also directed by David Gordon Green), and is the writer/director of The Foot-Fist Way, a big indie hit on the festival circuit that you can probably find on DVD these days. His few scenes--he's the one Noel is making macaroni with--are, I think, quite humorous. Like, I love the one where he's trying to hit on Noel, asking her if Paul wasn't around, who would she go out with. She's like "Why couldn't I just be alone?" and he's all "Well, you can't have Paul and you can't be alone. Who would it be?" It's a very childish way of propositioning someone.
DarkCityDame: He appeared to me to be brutally honest, but in a very hilarious way!
Dean: It's true. I also liked the scene where Paul has to dress up like a clown to accompany his mother to a gig (she's a clown performer for kids parties and such). But it's Zooey's performance that really hits me in the gut in this movie. She should have been nominated for an Oscar. She's that good. DarkCityDame: It's not that I am dense, but I’m not really familiar with Zooey Deschanel’s past work.
Dean: She's definitely been underused in movies. I think the highest-profile film she's been in was The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was, in itself, not seen very widely. She's really a cult actress, and I think she's quite choosy about her roles. But she always brings a surprising take on whatever she's asked to do in any movie. She’s got a moxie that I really like. I loved it in All The Real Girls when she's talking with Paul on the mountaintop and she stops and says "Shhhh!" and tells him that she likes to pretend sometimes that she only has 10 seconds to live. She puts her hands over her eyes and she starts the countdown, and he's like "Huh?"
DarkCityDame: Yeah! Some of their scenes together were just serene and beautiful!
Dean: Yeah, you could just feel it deep in your bones that they were perfect for each other, and not just because they were both attractive people, but because they had similar sensibilities.
DarkCityDame: Yeah! I could tell their relationship went beyond aesthetics and was more emotional.
Dean: They make each other laugh, they make each other honest, they make each other responsible, and they make each other aroused. Isn't this what we all look for in a relationship?
DarkCityDame: Well, Dean it’s really difficult for me to answer this question right now, since I’m not in a relationship at this time, but when I do find Mr. Dark City Dude, (since I am Dark City Dame—ha!), then I’ll come back and answer that question.
Dean: Hahahaha. Don’t worry—he’s out there wandering around somewhere. You’ll find him!!