"All the Real Girls" is quiet but thrillingly beautiful, patiently revealing itself as a simply poetic romance told in fragments of Southern-accented conversation.
By JOSHUA TANZER
In an alley shaded from the night lights of the town mill, Paul and Noel are not kissing they're talking about kissing.
"Why haven't you ever kissed me?" asks Noel, a pretty teenager who's suddenly caused a stir among the locals by coming back from boarding school a woman.
|ALL THE REAL GIRLS|
|Written and directed by: David Gordon Green.|
Adapted from a story by: Paul Schneider.
Cast: Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Patricia Clarkson, Shea Whigham, Benjamin Mouton, Maurice Compte, Danny McBride, Bartow Church.
Cinematography: Tim Orr.
Related links: Official site
"I'm scared, scared that if Tip ever asked me if I'd ever kissed you I'd have to say yes," answers Paul, who in his 20s is undoubtedly the best-looking fella in town but hasn't had to take his many women too seriously up to now.
"Mostly," he adds, "I don't want you to be like all the other girls."
"Well, why don't you kiss me right there," Tip's sister says, offering her hand. "I don't have to be like the other girls."
If one thing is going to lead to another for these two, it will have to happen at the pace of a long, languid, North Carolina summer day. They become best friends and savor each other's company, but they're not sure whether to take another step. Naturally, people talk. In their small town, not far from Thomas Wolfe's Asheville, everything about their relationship even when it's only a best-friendship is public property, so they want to be sure it's right.|
Of course, Paul has his drawbacks and he should be glad women aren't running from him at this point, as a friend reminds him. "Maybe if you didn't go down in every girl's history book as 'asshole ex-boyfriend,' things would be different," the friend says. "But that ain't going to happen."
It's less obvious at first that Noel has questions of her own, but when the initial rush of romance slows a bit, suddenly there are very real, very human consequences to deal with. Paul is an experienced ladies' man trying to change his nature, while Noel is a teenager just learning about love and heartbreak for the first time. If there's a particular payoff to this story, it comes in the moments when these two start to look seriously at what they're getting themselves into or out of.
"All the Real Girls" is mostly about talking something that writer-director David Gordon Green idiosyncratically excels at. As in Green's previous film, "George Washington," characters speak in short sentences of short words, but say a lot. Their conversations are often joined in the middle and left in the middle, and sometimes we only hear a sentence or two. They speak without filling in background, because people who know each other well in real life don't stop to go over the back story they just talk. And yet, these characters become familiar and their stories are drawn with increasing clarity as the film moves ahead.|
Some may find "All the Real Girls" too small, too slow or too roundabout for their tastes, but I was riveted on every minute of it. It keeps on flowing like a shallow country stream, and, like the steady patter of water over rocks, you could listen to its simple, endless poetry for a long time.
|APRIL 7, 2003|
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