Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Brian is the baby of his family, just 28, with two brothers in their forties and a father in his eighties. Whilst everybody else seems to have found their direction in life, he works in a comfortable but prospect-free job as a mattress salesman, lives by himself and doesn't do much socialising. But Brian's quiet, unassuming approach conceals a strong sense of identity and a definite life plan. Ever since he was young, he has wanted to be a parent. He's now in the process of applying to adopt a baby from China.

With a baby, Brian has always believed, his life would be complete. But then strange things start to happen. He is violently attacked by a homeless man. He meets a girl, Happy, who is passionate but desperately vulnerable. And his carefully constructed world begins to crumble.

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Marketed as a love story between two very different awkward young people, Gigantic is really more about urban society and its effect on the psyche. It opens with a scenes of lab rats swimming in a tank. The rats, we are told alternate between struggling and resigning themselves to their fate. Why do some fight harder than others?

The trouble with making a film about depression is that it's pretty bloody depressing to watch. Gigantic tries to solve this problem in several ways, with varying degrees of success. When we get out of the city there are sequences of gorgeous cinematography to make the spirits rise. There's sly observational humour throughout, fitting in well with the easy-going approach to life taken by Brian's friends and colleagues. And there are some great secondary characters, with John Goodman, in particular, wonderful as Happy's father - it's nice to see him get beyond slapstick and bit-parts to show what he's really capable of.

These strengths, however, don't extend to the main story. Paul Dano is likable and engaging as Brian, but doesn't have much of a character arc. Zooey Deschanel does her best as Happy but doesn't have much to work with, the story presenting her as a series of quirks without much underlying character. Deschanel is a very capable actress who has been crying out for the right script, but this isn't it, and whilst she's very pleasing to the eye it's ultimately difficult to see why Brian puts up with her. In fact, the whole of the love story feels contrived despite the existence of some chemistry between the actors. It comes across like filler material for a more interesting story which was inadvertently edited out.

Gigantic is clearly trying to extend itself beyond the usual cliches of the romance genre, which is commendable, but it's bitten off more than it can chew. As such it may have some appeal for hardened fans of indie dramas, but it's unlikely to end up on many people's favourites list.

Reviewed on: 10 Jun 2009
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A mattress salesman commences an awkward affair with a depressive rich girl.
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Director: Matt Aselton

Writer: Matt Aselton, Adam Nagata

Starring: Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, Edward Asner, John Goodman, Jane Alexander, Sean Dugan, Zach Galifianakis

Year: 2008

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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