Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano) is a 28-year-old mattress salesman with dreams of one day adopting a baby from China. He has had this dream since he was eight years old and believes it is in raising a child that he can find fulfillment in life and prove himself to his otherwise successful brothers and parents. Everything changes, however, when Al Lolly (John Goodman), an extremely wealthy man with a bad back, comes into the mattress store and buys a $14,000 Swedish bed. Al sends his daughter Harriet (Zooey Deschanel) to make the delivery arrangements, and we have boy meets girl. The rest of the film takes us on the typical will they or wont they roller coaster, although, again, in an atypical, zany way.
All through the first act of the film, I was unsure whether I would be able to sit through the whole thing. Gigantic develops slowly in the first act, which is a fine testament to the painfully ordinary and unfulfilling life that Brian is living. However, its difficult to sit there and watch a character just go through the motions of his daily life, at least for that long. Thankfully, the film gets a nice boost once Harriet arrives and Deschanel essentially steals the show.
What works in this film is the brilliant chemistry between Deschanel and Danos characters. Both are incredibly idiosyncratic and develop a bizarre relationship together, yet somehow it works. Both are unfulfilled in their lives, both carry the baggage of strange family dynamics, and both are brutally transparent in what they are thinking and feeling, even if they take some time to actually come out and say it. The performances are entirely believable and allow the audience to progressively connect and empathize with the characters.
The proliferation of off-kilter elements within Gigantic‘s opening stretch – ie there’s a crazy homeless guy hunting Brian, Brian consumes hallucinogenic mushrooms with his 80-year-old father in a cabin in the woods, etc – does lead one to initially assume that the film is going to be just another irritatingly precious indie comedy, yet even during its intolerable stretches the movie does benefit from the undeniable chemistry between Dano and Deschanel’s respective characters.
The movie is a little off-kilter for its own good. But, it’s supported by a cadre of solid actors that work their asses off to keep this from becoming a riff on Garden State. Still, it suffers from the hipster notion of being too cool for school. However, I’ll recommend based on the strength of the Dano and Deschanel pairing.