Gigantic

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Toronto International Film Festival

TORONTO -- Young filmmakers who want to emulate Luis Bunuel, David Lynch and Jean-Luc Godard usually wind up making a movie like "Gigantic." In fact, they usually wind up making a much worse film, so we can be grateful to a stellar cast and some discipline on the part of Matt Aselton, a commercials director making his feature debut, that "Gigantic" doesn't go completely overboard. Nevertheless, the film will appeal mostly to festivals and adventurous audiences.

Aselton has created a hero who has a pretty intense interior life, so the absurd things that crop up can be read as manifestations of those inner struggles. Paul Dano is superb as this character, the last child of an aging couple (nicely done by Ed Asner and Jane Alexander), who in his search for a meaningful goal develops an obsession to adopt a baby from China.

The always entertaining Zooey Deschanel is his love interest, who comes with her own screwy problems and a force-of-life father (John Goodman) who says exactly what he's thinking no matter how socially inappropriate.

The single most absurd situation is an ongoing attempt by a homeless man to kill Dano. No reason is given for his animosity, and these scenes clearly are not meant to be taken literally. Only the guy does beat him up and a Chinese baby does appear later, so Aselton is more than willing to leave an audience confused.

Fortunately, the film is mostly comedic, so it can tolerate much strangeness and startling dialogue. One only wishes that cinematographer Peter Donahue hadn't shot so much of the film with medium-long lenses that push an audience away from the characters and in such a drab and ugly color scheme as to make the eyes sore.

Production: Gigantic Movie.
Cast: Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, Ed Asner, Jane Alexander, John Goodman, Ian Roberts, Robert Stanton.
Director: Matt Aselton.
Screenwriters: Matt Aselton, Adam Nagata.
Producers: Mindy Goldberg, Christine Vachon.
Executive producers: Paul Dano, Scott Ferguson, Jerry Soloman, Jeff Preiss, John Wells.
Director of photography: Peter Donahue.
Production designer: Rick Butler.
Music: Randy Bottum.
Costume designer: Paola Weintraub.
Editor: Beatrice Sisul.
No rating, 98 minutes.

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