Gigantic is an odd experience, but one that seems ever more charming in hindsight.
People who adopt foreign orphans are one of three things: a) too old to procreate; b) unable to procreate; or c) a Hollywood star looking for a bit of positive publicity. Brian (Paul Dano) doesn’t fit any of those categories, which immediately makes him a little bit weird.
He’s 28, single, works as a mattress salesman and was the afterthought child of elderly parents. Apart from dealing with a lifelong obsession to adopt a Chinese baby, he meanders between odd jobs occupied by equally odd people, all the while avoiding a homicidal, homeless hitman.
But a wrench is thrown in the works when the daughter of a wealthy and overbearing customer (Zooey Deschanel and John Goodman respectively) inadvertently falls asleep on one of Brian’s beds, and becomes yet another eccentric character in his life.
Paul Dano has made his name playing interesting characters in quirky films, and Brian is no different. Languishing in a schizophrenic state of confidence and depression, he drifts from encounter to encounter while fixated on the goal of becoming a single father.
Zooey Deschanel plays to type, but is no less charming as Harriet 'Happy' Lolly, who falls first and thinks later after her chance encounter with Brian. Unsurprisingly, there aren’t enough superlatives to shower on John Goodman. His performance as the rich, brash and abrasive businessman is as offensive as it is funny.
What makes Gigantic interesting is that it centres on a young man who, at the outset, leads us to believe that he has little or no interest in doing the things that 28-year-olds are supposed to do. His constant and unrelenting desire for a baby is largely unexplained, and yet it comes across, quite curiously, as a strange kind of strength, rather than making Brian seem like a lost soul looking for something to give him a sense of self-worth.
Eschewing a traditional three act structure, writers Adam Nagata and Matt Aselton (who also directed) offer us a snippet of Brian’s life, which peters out rather than builds to a climax. Normally that’s a weakness, but here the characters drive everything – they’re quirky without being annoying, funny without being clownish and odd but realistic.
As funny and interesting as it is, however, the film raises more question than it answers. Why is Brian obsessed with having a Chinese baby? Why is a homeless man trying to kill him? And why the hell is it called Gigantic anyway? There may be no answers, but the ride is so interesting and entertaining you’ll hardly mind.
Paul Dano is carving a distinct career in independent film.
Quirky, original and interesting.
It’s an odd experience, but one that seems ever more charming in hindsight.