By: Scott Weinberg
Yes, the title of the movie is "Good Dick," no, there's no character named Dick in the film, and yes, I definitely think that the flick's eventual distributor will change it to something a little less, well, tacky. But I believe a brave distributor will come along and show this fine little film some love -- despite its frequent proclivity for very frank and seriously explicit sex talk. Fortunately, the film comes from a very sincere and heartfelt place, which makes the few "uncomfortable" moments perfectly acceptable ... and frequently quite fascinating.
Jason Ritter and fantastic newcomer Marianna Palka star as a pair of unnamed twenty-somethings who don't "meet cute," don't fall madly in love, and don't really get along all that well -- yet they still make for one of the most fascinating on-screen movie couples in quite some time. "He" is a homeless video store clerk who has a desperate yearning for some romantic contact. "She" is a seriously unhappy young woman who seems to have a strong affection for hardcore pornography. "He," for some strange-yet-sweet reason, can see through her powerfully unpleasant exterior -- and he seems to be well and truly smitten with this dysfunctional female. "She" claims to have no affection whatsoever for her new sorta-boyfriend, but she also welcomes him into her apartment (and bed) time and time again. Oh, but she won't get physical. At all.
All in all, the movie makes for one of the most non-traditional romantic comedies you'll ever see. Hell, it's not even very romantic -- although it is very funny in a casually dark and disconcerting sort of way. The two lead characters are both fairly "damaged" in their own ways. He has some dark secrets in his past and is trying to find some simple human contact, while she clearly has some sexual issues of her own. Yet she still seems to need his companionship -- even though she's more likely to verbally abuse her new "boyfriend" than she is to give him a big, cuddly hug. Needless to say, it's a very prickly, very confused, and, yes, strangely amusing relationship. (Just wait till you see the kids settle down with the latest Annie Sprinkle DVD.)
Marianna Palka (who also wrote and directed the film, and I'm quite impressed all the way around) does a stellar job of creating a young woman who is wounded, cautious, angry, and desperately (quietly) needy all at the same time. At first you may find nothing worthwhile in this fractured female, but Palka's multi-dimensional performance brings with it an empathy for the character that's really quite powerful. Easily her equal is Jason Ritter, who delivers what is arguably his best performance to date. Although his character is sweet, funny, and very understanding -- on the surface -- Ritter throws in several subtle shades that keep his character from becoming too "perfect." And while Good Dick is most definitely the Palka / Ritter show all the way, a few of the supporting players do get to shine here and there, most notably Eric Edelstein as the big-hearted video store manager and Martin Starr as a clerk with girl problems. (Plus Charles Durning shows up for a few minutes, and that always helps.)
In case you couldn't tell by now, Good Dick is not your traditional boy-meets-girl story, but it does an excellent job of delivering two fairly unique characters trapped in a seriously strange relationship. Even when the film falls back and relies on some fairly obvious touches (particularly in Act III), the few speed-bumps are easily forgiven. Good Dick is a strangely appealing little tale of two "weirdos," but it also manages to shine a light on the fears and insecurities than even the "normalest" people face. And that's a pretty impressive feat. Especially for a first-time filmmaker.
But seriously: You gotta change that title. (I seem to be saying that a lot this festival.)