I’ll start with the good parts. The movie is beautiful to look at. I can see DGG’s influence on Shotgun Stories even more clearly now. The way the violence is juxtaposed against the beauty of the landscape. He could’ve chosen to depict this working-class small town in grainy tones but instead they are filmed in Cinemascope and look vivid and colorful. Even the trash and the dump trucks and the piles of iron in the train yard look almost impossibly beautiful. In parts, I was reminded of Terence Malick’s movies in the way the landscape and nature and the place where everything is happening seems so integral to the story. However, this could also just be because of the young girl narrator that obviously reminded me of Badlands/.
So I guess this is where my problem with the film began. The voice of the narrator just sounded so unrealistic that it really kept me from getting involved in the movie. But then the movie really begins and we see these kids just walking around and playing and just living their lives in this town and I got totally engrossed in the film again. The narrator still continues to fill us in on these kids’ lives which bothered me but it was all engrossing nevertheless. Another problem I had with the movie was that none of the conversations seemed like conversations between real people. I understand that reality is not what the filmmaker is going for her. I get that the idea is to present this really poetic, lyrical tale. However, while the lyricism in the images were totally appealing to me, the poetry in the dialogue just did not work for me at all. It seemed forced and several times in the film, I felt like the dialogues were the filmmaker’s way of telling me “Isn’t that a beautiful piece of dialogue?” which just bugged me. So despite the fact that the performances were all really great, I just felt emotionally disconnected from the story. I think All the Real Girls probably has at least some of these same problems. Somehow, they didn’t bother me as much in that film and I still found the story and characters authentic and real. Secondly, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Ratcatcher, a film that came out just a year before George Washington and unfortunately the comparison is really unfavorable to George Washington. They share a lot of the same themes, a coming-of-age story, the loss of childhood innocence even down to the visual motifs (trash piled up everywhere, body floating in the water). And yeah, George Washington should’ve had some scenes with mice being sent up on a balloon too!