“Gigantic” is a motion picture of colossal quirk, exceptional passion, and befuddling execution. Writer/director Matt Aselton is endeavoring to craft a sincere feature on the pains of maturity and the botched communicative effort of a new relationship, but there’s a psychological depth to the material that never quite reaches the screen intact. It leaves the film acceptable in small fragments, but overwhelmingly frustrating, as though Aselton gave up on his ideas halfway through the typically curative editing process.
Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano, “There Will Be Blood”) is a placid young man enjoying a successful career selling high-end beds while dreaming of a day he can adopt a Chinese baby. Into his life comes Happy (Zooey Deschanel), the daughter of a powerful blowhard (John Goodman) who becomes one of Brian’s toughest customers. Drawn to his composure and kindness, Happy instigates a relationship with the shy salesman, finding his peace comforting. However, once Brian inches closer to his fatherhood aspirations, Happy freaks out, unable to process a life of familial comfort and relationship fulfillment.
If there’s anything truly celebratory about “Gigantic,” it’s the exposed performances from Dano and Deschanel. Drawing composed, nuanced work out of a very shallow pool of credible motivation, the actors fight a truncation of the drama every step of the way, giving the camera a believable depiction of growing pains and domestic anxiety. While burdened with an ineffective meet cute introduction and lackluster development from Aselton along the way, Dano and Deschanel break out of the indie film cliché coffin to lend the script a depth it doesn’t always deserve. Their efforts are eventually undermined by the unsavory random quality of the final act, but the exertion is cherished and startlingly effective at times.
“Gigantic” resembles a wonderful, thoughtful screenplay that couldn’t bear the burden of interpretation. This is not an unlikable film from any angle, but there’s a frayed quality to the narrative that’s distracting, ultimately disrupting whatever catharsis Aselton is eager to evoke. Basted in cutesy Sundance touches and unshowered idiosyncrasy, “Gigantic” should rightfully crumble from whimsical touches such as the premium mattress sales job or the Goodman character, who demands to be taxied around New York City lying on his back in the cargo area of a car. Still, the film survives due to its passion for the central relationship and the combustion of emotions the match instigates.
The more overt touches of “Gigantic” threw me, fairly boiled down to a single screenwriting concept that’s distractingly absurd. It seems that a homeless stalker (played by Zach Galifianakis) is trailing Brian’s every step, occasionally unleashing violent attacks on the poor guy as he makes his way around the city. The subplot opens a substantial flood of symbolism into the story that Aselton fails to suitably cultivate, leaving the sequences puzzling and worse, psychologically stagnant. It’s a step (of many) “Gigantic” didn’t need to make, electing to perform grand, obvious gestures of burden over a more natural and ingratiating communication of personal salvation.