Movies about men becoming a lone parent is nothing new, every few years there seems to be some sort of movie which delves into this world of paternal parenting. And as such "Jersey Girl" which sees Ben Affleck playing a single father is quite an obvious little comedy as fatherhood is stressful, fun and life changing. In fact place "jersey Girl" up against any other comedy about being a single dad and the chances are it will come off second best because it doesn't provide that many laughs from parenting issues. But then the humour of being a lone parent is just part of what "Jersey Girl" is about because it also covers an element of having to be who you've become not being who you were or who you think you were going to be. It is this layer which veers away from all the usual parenting issues which makes "Jersey Girl" entertaining.
Ollie Trinkie (Ben Affleck - Daredevil) is a top music exec with a great job, a great home and a great wife in Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez) and the fact that they are expecting their first child is great. That is until Gertrude dies giving birth leaving Ollie to bring up baby Gertie (Raquel Castro) alone, with just the help of his father Bart (George Carlin). Trying to juggle being a dad and his high powered job is too stressful leading to a moment of complete and utter career suicide for Ollie. But with no high powered job it gives Ollie the chance to focus on being a dad which after a strange encounter in a video shop brings Maya (Liv Tyler - One Night at McCool's) into his life.
Now whilst the set up may see Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez share the screen as husband and wife the real story comes when Ollie ends up a single father. We have the humour of him trying to juggle being a dad to a baby and his career leading to stress and an almighty crowd pleasing outburst at a press conference for Will Smith. Any way this leads to basically Ollie losing his job, moving in with his dad and 7 years later working for the town whilst always harbouring hopes of getting back the job he once had.
The thing about "Jersey Girl" is that whilst the story has moments which deliver the expected parenting problems they are quite often different to the norm especially when we get past the baby stage and the unoriginal Talc accident. We get jokes about Ollie walking in on Gertie with a 7 year old boy playing you show me yours and I'll show you mine, leading to a humorous moment of unexpected parenting. We also get a moment when Ollie takes Gertie to see a show and is shocked at his daughter watching blood and guts in Sweeney Todd. These are actually quite clever scenes because whilst parenting issues they are different to the norm.
But we also get a side of the movie which is all about how being a single dad affects Ollie and we have this humorous relationship which forms between him and video store worker Maya who on learning Ollie has not had sex for 7 years offers him a mercy jump. But whilst the whole feel of this is humorous it also makes a point that becoming a father changes who you are, you become different and have to put behind who you were and who you thought you should be. It is a nice point which again is not that common in movies about becoming a single father.
As such "Jersey Girl" goes from being a typical single father comedy to one with different jokes and some actual depth about having to be who you are rather than who your were. It doesn't all work and the humour where we have the music and movie industry lampooned such as Ollie saying that Will Smith will never be an actor often feels forced. It's still amusing and there is some fun observations going on but it is a case of it trying too hard to throw in this humour.
Now whilst "Jersey Girl" may feature Jennifer Lopez, Liv Tyler, Jason Biggs, George Carlin in supporting roles and Ben Affleck as Ollie the star for me is Raquel Castro as Gertie. The cuteness of Raquel as Gertie is perfect and she has some wonderful facial expressions which grab your attention be it when she is with Affleck, Tyler or Carlin.
What this all boils down to is that "Jersey Girl" is a pleasant and amusing take on the unoriginal idea of a single father struggling to bring up his daughter. Where it works best is not so much in the trials of parenthood but in the way it changes a man and how hard that is to accept.
Tags: Instant Families