Good Dick (2008) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for sexual content and language
Running Time: 86 min.
Cast: Jason Ritter, Marianna Palka, Eric Edelstein, Mark Webber, Martin Starr, Tom Arnold, Charles Durning
Cameo: Bryce Dallas Howard
Director: Marianna Palka
Screenplay: Marianna Palka
Review published May 23, 2010
Jason Ritter (Swimfan, W.), who also serves as producer of the film, is the male lead, playing the non-ambitious clerk at a hip L.A. video store. He's attracted to an awkward seeming woman (Palka) who comes in to rent X-rated flicks regularly, but she never says anything to anyone. He tries to engage her in conversation, to no avail. So he takes the matter into his own hands by showing up at her apartment complex, and then at her door, and even makes his way into her life. However, just because he's physically in her presence persistently doesn't mean he can know her any better, as she lobs insults and reprimands at him constantly in order to keep him always at a distance. In the process of trying to get to know her, he falls in love, but it's hard to love someone who shows nothing but disdain and rebuke in response to his every attempt to express his affection.
Scottish-raised filmmaker Marianna Palka writes, directs and stars in this offbeat independent film that is more than just the sex comedy you might think it would be from the title and premise. My interpretation of the title stems from the comments people often make about women who are chronically uptight and what they really need in order to loosen up (Other theories is that it describes more the person attached to the titular appendage, or that the male protagonist must behave in that area to get what he wants, or, stretching a bit, that it has an alternate meaning regarding the detective work he must employ in other to get to the answer to the mystery behind his infatuation's strange behavior).
The title is the most unfortunate thing about the film, as it will probably be misleading to audiences, as those looking for a raunchy sex comedy will be disappointed (though the film is definitely sex themed), while those who typically enjoy original independent films will pass it by, thinking it just another dumb romantic comedy, especially when they see actors like Tom Arnold (Soul Plane) and Charles Durning (State and Main) in the cast.
What Good Dick ultimately is about isn't just having sex, but about how people can often become very complicated to know when they carry a great deal of emotional baggage they aren't ready to deal with. Just having sex with someone isn't the cure -- it's about letting go of the things keeping them down. Her insults aren't because she hates people -- they often are insults directed at herself in disguise.
Although it plays as a quirky comedy, Good Dick is actually a serious film much of the way, especially in its final few scenes where the relationship comes to a head (the irresistible force clashing with the immovable object) and the female lead (the main characters have no name in the credits) has to decide if she will break down and try letting a man into her life or if she will continue to not deal with the past that's the source of her deep emotional barriers.
Impressive performances by the leads help to traverse some of the difficult hurdles presented by the sometimes uneven tone of the film. However, the awkwardness is to be expected in a movie about people who are deeply conflicted trying to relate to each other and not really knowing how. Palka's film might have been more interesting if it played out as a straight drama with depth rather than as a cutesy dysfunctional romantic comedy with dramatic moments.
Ultimately, even if it isn't as funny, romantic or ribald as you might think it should be from the way the movie is packaged, Good Dick still emerges as a thoughtful, original and interesting look at the difficulty of relationships with people who were screwed up at an early age due to events not in their control, and the arrested development never having control fosters.
©2010 Vince Leo