Boy meets girl is the oldest story that exists. We’ve all seen this tale played out a zillion times, can see the conclusion coming from miles away, yet we are still attracted to this most basic of stories. Rarely, however, is the story of boy meets girl told in a fresh, unassuming, quirkily adorable fashion. Gigantic accomplishes this.
Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano) is a 28-year-old mattress salesman with dreams of one day adopting a baby from China. He has had this dream since he was eight years old and believes it is in raising a child that he can find fulfillment in life and prove himself to his otherwise successful brothers and parents. Everything changes, however, when Al Lolly (John Goodman), an extremely wealthy man with a bad back, comes into the mattress store and buys a $14,000 Swedish bed. Al sends his daughter Harriet (Zooey Deschanel) to make the delivery arrangements, and we have boy meets girl. The rest of the film takes us on the typical “will they or won’t they” roller coaster, although, again, in an atypical, zany way.
All through the first act of the film, I was unsure whether I would be able to sit through the whole thing. Gigantic develops slowly in the first act, which is a fine testament to the painfully ordinary and unfulfilling life that Brian is living. However, it’s difficult to sit there and watch a character just go through the motions of his daily life, at least for that long. Thankfully, the film gets a nice boost once Harriet arrives and Deschanel essentially steals the show.
What works in this film is the brilliant chemistry between Deschanel and Dano’s characters. Both are incredibly idiosyncratic and develop a bizarre relationship together, yet somehow it works. Both are unfulfilled in their lives, both carry the baggage of strange family dynamics, and both are brutally transparent in what they are thinking and feeling, even if they take some time to actually come out and say it. The performances are entirely believable and allow the audience to progressively connect and empathize with the characters.