All the Real Girls
4 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
love is a puzzle This gentle, unpretentious romance is a perfect follow-up to Green's George Washington, establishing a visual and thematic style for the young filmmaker that's completely endearing. Paul (Schneider) is a rather hapless womaniser in his early 20s who surprises everyone, including himself, when he actually falls in love with a girl. The trick is that Noel (Deschanel) is the sister of his best friend Tip (Whigham), so he really doesn't want to mess it up. Or repeat the mistakes he's made with every other girl in their North Carolina town. But growing up isn't very easy, and maintaining his friendships, his romance and his relationship with his mom (Clarkson) is a lot of work.

Once again, Green uses sumptuous cinematography, long takes and bracingly natural performances to draw us into the story. These are authentic people living real life, not some Hollywood recreation of it. Schneider is terrific--likeable and flawed, and trying too hard to prove that everyone's wrong about him. The actors around him are just as authentic ... and funny. While the other standout, as usual, is Clarkson, who invests just the right balance of steely energy and barely reserved emotion. Every scene feels like improv--offhanded and funny, intense and frighteningly emotional. There are moments of nearly transcendent sweetness (without ever being sugary), and the tensions and pressures of rural machismo are palpable. To paraphrase one character, these people aren't "careful or educated or strong", but they are discovering things about themselves in a place where growing a beard or having your hair cut is a major life change. Yes, the film meanders a bit, getting slightly mopey and failing to generate much chemistry between Paul and Noel. But even this is so realistic that it demands to be seen.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 15.May.03

dir-scr David Gordon Green
with Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Patricia Clarkson, Shea Whigham, Benjamin Mouton, Danny McBride, Maurice Compte Maya Ling Pruitt, Bartow Church, Heather McComb, Karey Williams, Eddie Rouse
release US 14.Feb.03; UK 22.Aug.03
03/US 1h48

Strike or spare? Noel and Paul (Deschanel and Schneider) contemplate the future...

schneider deschanel clarkson

23rd Shadows Awards

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... love is a puzzle

Robert, New York: 5/5 "One of those rare films that gets love just right. It is a tender, compelling, and haunting love story with disturbingly strong performances. Schneider is very good as the torn Paul. However, Zooey Deschanel is stunning in way, and it is so easy to see why Paul is willing to change himself for her. I sense a star in the making. Shea Whigam is remarkable as Tip, while Patricia Clarkson turns in yet another fine supporting turn as Paul's long-suffering mother. This is a film about the awkward and heartbreaking nature of raw and naive love. It is gentle, bittersweet, unflinching - and so powerful. " (14.Nov.04)

2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall