Jersey Girl

(David Burton Morris, USA, 1992)


Jersey Girl is a failed, if intermittently intriguing, attempt at a distinctive romantic comedy. Director David Burton Morris is noted for downbeat, realist comedy-dramas like Patti Rocks (1988), and here he tries infusing the fluffy pop culture formula of Pretty Woman (1990) with a political viewpoint.

Toby (Jami Gertz) is unhappy with her lot. She is a working class Jersey girl stuck with her father, her girlfriends, and a job at a crèche. She longs to be glamorous and upwardly mobile like a city girl, and her ticket to this nirvana seems to be the young business man (Dylan McDermott) whose car she inadvertently drives into one fine day.

Everything seems set up for a simple wish fulfilment fantasy, but soon both leading characters are undergoing crises of conscience related to their class position in society. Toby oscillates between rejecting and embracing her roots, while McDermott reveals the facts of his lowly origins and his ultra-high class lover (Sheryl Lee) – an art dealer who, like most art dealers in movies, is a predatory, soulless bitch.

The central problem with Jersey Girl is one that haunts many a modern romantic comedy – the problem of making us believe that the central star-crossed lovers would ever spend more than five minutes with each other in the real world. Gertz and McDermott cry, sigh, fight, make passionate love – but never converse in anything but telegrammatic movie clichés. At least, in the old days, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell knew how to talk, and talk well, to one another.

© Adrian Martin May 1994

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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