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Thursday, September 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 52.0° F  Fog/Mist
The Paper
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Gigantic: Indie-quirky

I'm puzzled by Gigantic, the independent film opening in Sundance's Screening Room series (which is, by the way, the greatest thing happening for Madison cinephiles these days). This low-key romantic comedy goes out of its way to be challenging, what with the catatonic indie acting, the disjointed storytelling, the surplus of eccentric peripheral characters, the surprising strains of anti-Semitism and homophobia.

In movies, challenging is not by definition a bad thing, of course. But there's too little payoff in this story of a young New York mattress salesman named Brian (Paul Dano, late of Little Miss Sunshine), who has his whole life wanted to adopt a Chinese baby. One day he sells a very expensive mattress to a blustering bigot (John Goodman), the kind of guy who uses Jew as a verb, and soon Brian meets the man's pretty, mysterious daughter Happy (Zooey Deschanel). She initiates sex almost immediately. Why? Dunno.

Soon follows a series of events that are seemingly random, and not in interesting ways. Brian is repeatedly attacked by a homeless man, for reasons unexplained. Brian ingests psychedelic mushrooms with his family. Brian's brother gets a handjob at a massage parlor. We learn that Happy is not so happy, even though she went to Groton.

There are some very distinguished performers in Gigantic, including Goodman, Ed Asner and Jane Alexander. But they don't keep Gigantic from being merely gratuitously quirky.

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