Another Terrence Malick-esque journey into a rural industrial town by director David Gordon Green, the director's second film (after "George Washington") has no less heart, soul or poetic beauty. The picture opens with Paul (Paul Schneider) and Noel (Zooey Deschanel, absolutely one of my favorite actresses) anixously discussing their first kiss. There's no strings in the background as they lock lips or anything; Green's opening pairing of the two is messy, engaging and real.
As with the director's prior film, the story doesn't have a great deal of structure - instead, seemingly following its characters as they interact with each other and things develop from there. Paul (Paul Schneider) is a twenty-something who has been with most of the girls in his small town, yet has never found anything resembling romance. During one Summer, the sister of Paul's friend, Tip (Shea Wingham), comes home and approaches Paul. Noel (Deschanel) and Paul start to develop deeper feelings for one another, despite the fact that he knows that Tip knows his reputation with women.
Of course, it's only a matter of time before he finds out, harming the friendship. That's really about it - the film is unconcerned with stepping across the usual ground of the genre, instead letting its characters go on their way and uncover each other's feelings through enjoyable and well-written conversations that contain all the stutters, pauses and other nervous gestures of two people becoming slowly more comfortable and affectionate for one another. Although reportedly none of the dialogue is improvised, some of it feels that way. In other words, it's a teen movie for teens tired of the kind of teen movies that hit multiplexes each week.
Zooey Deschanel walks away with the picture for the most part, merging her pretty girl-next-door looks with her usual blend of heart and wit. This performance, however, is deeper than her usual scene-stealer comedic roles, and generally quite effective. I've always thought her to be able to carry a feature, and here she proves it. Schneider and her have lovely, quiet chemistry, too, while Shea Whigham and Patricia Clarkson (as Paul's mother) provide good support. Tim Orr's cinematography is another star; there are some truly beautiful 'scope compositions scattered throughout the movie. While low-key and industrial, there's a little less sense of isolation and a little more hope.
Some people may not take to the film's unforced, unfocused romance, but those seeking something that's unlike the "Cinderella" stories that come out of Hollywood will likely find this a gem.
VIDEO: "All The Real Girls" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The film's beautiful, textured and rich cinematography is presented marvelously on this transfer, which looks remarkably sharp and well-defined, yet retains a clean and crisp appearance.
That's not to say that a few flaws didn't show up - a couple of minor print flaws were scattered about in a couple of scenes. However, no edge enhancement was spotted, nor were any instances of compression artifacts. The result was a transfer that appeared consistently very well-defined and often showed off strong fine details and good depth to the image.
The film's earthy, warm color palette remained well-saturated, vivid and problem-free throughout. Black level remained solid, too. Overall, a very fine effort.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. There's really nothing in the material to suggest aggressive sound use and there really isn't any. The rear speakers aren't totally silent, however - some mild ambience does appear from the surrounds on a couple of occasions. The film's effective modern rock soundtrack is nicely offered by the front speakers, while dialogue remained clear.
EXTRAS: Extras include a commentary with director David Gordon Green and writer/actor Paul Schneider, as well as an 18-minute documentary that features interviews with the writer, director and cast. Rounding out the package are deleted scenes and trailers.
Final Thoughts: "All The Real Girls" is a touching, low-key and well-acted romantic drama that is a refreshing change from the kind of fare that's usually found in the genre. The DVD presents the film with excellent image quality, good sound and a few informative supplements. Recommended; worth at least a rental look.