Saturday, December 29, 2007

Voice of Kevin

I’ve been a Kevin Smith fan since “Dogma” erupted on the screens and created such a controversy ( I still say it’s quite stupid to denounce a film you haven’t seen…), and remained just as appreciative of his work even for the much maligned “Jersey Girl”. Not that I refused to see the light, but because I genuinely liked the film. I like it even more since so-called hardcore fans of Mr. Smith seem to be in increasing denial of the film’s very existence; the man himself appears to mourn it, instead of celebrating the tremendous pleasure he experienced in making the film (“Blowjobs all around” was the expression he once used, if memory serves).

Released in 2004, “Jersey Girl” centered on a Ben Affleck-played entertainment hot shot that goes back to Nowhereville USA, after the loss of his wife while giving birth lead him to a very public meltdown. It was nowhere as bare-bones as “Clerks”, or as teen-oriented as most of Kev's other offerings, which is one of the reasons it was lambasted by critics and ignored at the Box-Office. The more I see how everyone treats this cute little dramatic comedy, the more it reminds me of the painting “Voice of Fire”.

American artist Barnett Newman, caught in the cultural shift created by Jackson Pollock, the Beatles and Stanley Kubrick at the turn of the 60’s, produced in 1966 a very infamous painting, which consists of a unified blue canvas with a large red stripe running down the middle. And that’s it; no psychedelic stroke of brush or special “effects”. Where things get really weird is Canada’s National Art Gallery buying the thing in 1990, to the tune of 1.8 million of tax payer’s dollars. That wasn’t a typo – 1.8 million fazools! Canadians understandably reacted badly to the acquisition, prompting a still strong debate on what constitutes art, and why should the people have to pay such hefty sums for it. One provincial Prime Minister at the time declared that had he known the federal government was so gullible, he would’ve painted a red stripe on his barn and collected the money. The Gallery’s director retorted that unfortunately for him, Barnett Newman thought of it first.

Of course “Jersey Girl” isn’t “Citizen Kane”, and nobody should’ve expected Kevin Smith to become Orson Welles (although he has in some ways, and I’m not talking about his girth).What he did was leaving the “anal” side of his work behind, and trying to mature. “Jersey Girl” is a love letter to his own wife and child, which also gives audiences a few pounds of solid gold; George Carlin as a sarcastic-yet-warm grandfather, Mike Starr and Stephen Root sharing hilarious chemistry, J-Lo dying only five minutes into the movie, Ben Affleck back where we like him and Lips Tyler (err, Liv..Sorry) in a shower scene. But above all, it was a cute little dramatic comedy. Sit back and enjoy, or at least have the decency to respect the maturing of an author.

The one big argument naysayers will dish out to my point is that the price tag of $25M was way too high for a simply cute film from an author of which we expected other things. Shouldn’t we all put our little filmed love letters on YouTube and collect that money, will they say. And to that, I can only retort one thing – unfortunately for them, Kevin Smith thought of it first.