Judge Christopher Kulik finds the fun in dysfunctional relationships.
What do you really want?
A young man (Jason Ritter, W.) spends his days working behind the counter of a Cinefile video store in L.A. He's smitten with an unusual young woman (Marianna Palka) who comes in every day to rent '70s porn. However, talking to her turns out to be futile. He tries staking out her apartment and bringing her free rentals, but she's still uninterested. It's only when he crafts a lie about a dying Great Aunt does she actually let him into her apartment and, consequently, into her shambled life.
His sincere approach doesn't wash well with her, as she seems to be armed with nothing but insults. Somehow, he's gets her approval to bringing her dinner every night and then sleep in her bed (a relief from spending nights in his car). However, she does lay out certain rules when it comes to his visits. She doesn't like to be touched, she never wants to have sex, and she really doesn't even care for conversation. Still, it's only a matter of time before she gives in to his charm and emerges from her brittle shell of a past.
I'm afraid this plot description doesn't really do Good Dick justice. If this film sounds strange and slight, it is. This confident indie is more concerned with character and idiosyncrasies than a linear plot. Both of the leads are nameless, which is clearly intentional on the part of Palka, who makes her writing and directing debut here. The title suggests something lurid and dirty, but in fact it makes sense when you consider how her character treats Ritter's. I don't want to get too specific, mind you.
What Good Dick really boils down to is being a smooth, observant romantic comedy about two lost souls and how their eccentricities clash. She's addicted to erotica, cigarettes and Super Big Gulps. He's homeless and only seems to get along with his co-workers at the video store. His attempts to talk to her at first can make one queasy, as he enters stalker mode and acts like a Peeping Tom at times. Ritter, as well as the audience, wonders why she is so anti-social and insists on staying in her apartment. Their relationship develops in a really natural way, and it's unpredictable because of Palka's erratic behavior and how Ritter deals with it.
Aside from some harsh language, the film never gets disturbing. There's a loopy sense of humor which Palka employs to great advantage, particularly in the verbal exchanges between her and Ritter. The numerous scenes of Ritter chatting with his co-workers, which include Apatow alumni Martin Starr, are also very amusing to watch. There's a brief scene with Tom Arnold, who plays Palka's father with evil relish. Plus, the film's final moments are also heartbreaking and graceful. Good Dick works even if it's bit too low-key and impotent at times.
Regardless, it's an auspicious debut by Palka, and I look forward to what she does next. If anything, she and Ritter share a memorable chemistry onscreen. They've been a real-life couple for about 10 years now, and they even formed their own production company (Morning Knight) after studying acting together at the Atlantic Theater Company. By the way, Jason is the son of the late John Ritter (one of my favorite actors) who became famous playing Jack Tripper on Three's Company. Jason's mother, Nancy Morgan, can be seen briefly in Good Dick as a waitress.
Premiering at Sundance in early 2008, Good Dick has finally made it to DVD courtesy of Phase 4 Films. The film was shot on video, so the picture is obviously not quite as sharp as big-budget studio films, with a moderate amount of grain and subdued colors. Still, the 1.85:1 anamorphic print is more than acceptable, with good flesh tones and well-captured outdoor shots. On the audio side, we have a 5.1 Surround track which gives full attention to Jared Nelson Smith's sweet score, and dialogue is easily heard on all fronts. The only scene which suffers is the one in Arnold's office which is full of echoes. Spanish subtitles and English closed captioning are also provided.
Extras begin with "Good Dick Goes To Sundance," which runs about an hour. We see how the film was presented at the festival, and it's fascinating to see the process. We get extended comments from Palka, Ritter, and the other cast members via Q&A sessions, as well as hear the audience reaction after the film's screening. This feature pretty much makes up for the absence of a commentary track. Also included is a 12-minute Gag Reel which supplies some laughs, while also being a cool look at the actors' enthusiasm while making the film.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Peace Arch Entertainment
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