Saturday, October 1, 2016

Funny coincidences of Jersey Girl

No part of me intended to catch up with Jersey Girl anytime soon.

I've seen most of Kevin Smith's movies, so it was a movie I expected I'd see "one of these days." But the occasion would really have to present itself, and there would have to be no other better options.

Apparently, those circumstances arose when I saw it at the library recently, borrowed it with a shrug, then decided not to return it yesterday when I brought back a bunch of other items that were due back sooner. Jersey Girl wasn't due back until the 17th, so I held onto it, not realizing that my opportunity to watch it would occur just a few hours later on Friday -- a holiday here in the great state of Victoria. (It's a new public holiday, actually, to coincide with today's Aussie rules football grand final.)

And because my wife took my older son out Pokemon hunting while my younger son took a nap, leaving me with a block of time, I did indeed watch Jersey Girl on Friday afternoon. Or, 45 minutes of it, finishing up the remainder that night before going to bed. You know, seemed like a good afternoon movie, one I could pause when I drifted off into my own nap.

I'm glad I did watch it, not because I liked the movie -- though I did, more than I expected I would -- but because it presented a truly funny set of coincidences, both with my own life and with the careers of those involved in the movie. Watching it 12 years after its release, when the movie is not having a moment of any kind and has largely been forgotten, I was in a position to identify coincidences that probably no one else is -- especially since some of those relate only to me and my timing for watching the movie.

Such as:

1) Kevin Smith seems to have been inspired to make this movie by the birth of his own daughter, Harley Quinn, which occurred in June of 1999. (She actually makes an uncredited cameo in the movie as well, I later discovered, though I didn't catch it.) That's more than five years before Jersey Girl came out, but it stands to reason that his own experiences as a father played a big role in his decision to write such a movie. This year, he's made the second movie that seems to have been inspired, in a way, by Harley Quinn -- Yoga Hosers, which I saw just two weeks ago.

2) Jersey Girl stars Liv Tyler, who, like Harley Quinn Smith, became famous largely because she had a famous dad. (If you want to call Harley Quinn Smith "famous." She does have her own wikipedia page.) It remains to be seen whether Kevin Smith's daughter will have the same type of career as Steven Tyler's daughter, though it certainly seems unlikely.

3) Smith named his daughter Harley Quinn because he's a huge Batman fan. That's probably also why he included a throwaway line in Jersey Girl in which Affleck, driving a street sweeper, says to his now seven-year-old daughter "Welcome to the Batmobile." He calls back to it later on as well, making it not totally a throwaway, I guess. Smith couldn't have known, of course, that 12 years later, in 2016, Affleck would first appear as Batman, giving this line a wholly unintended additional resonance. (Reminds me a bit of that moment in Midnight Special when Michael Shannon talks about kryptonite, except he'd already appeared as Zod when that movie was made.)

4) In Jersey Girl, Affleck's character loses his job working in PR for musicians when he has a stressful moment in which he curses out Will Smith in front of a hot mic. (It's actually less accidental than that -- he just loses his cool and makes snarky comments about Smith to a room full of reporters at a press conference, as he considers Smith's attempt to start a movie career dubious at best, continually deriding him by calling him "The Fresh Prince." That part of the story takes place in the mid-1990s.) Again, Kevin Smith couldn't have known when writing this bit that Affleck would later appear as Batman opposite Will Smith in this year's Suicide Squad. When they have that confrontation in the alley, you might think that Deadshot has a whole different sort of vendetta against Batman than just the normal conflict between superhero and supervillain. Of course, Smith actually makes a completely charming cameo at the end of the movie in which he is totally awesome, ruling out any possibility of lingering bad blood (though he never does discover Affleck's character's identity when sitting and chatting with him in the waiting area of a publicity company).

5) I noticed in the opening credits that the movie was shot by the great Hungarian cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who was voted one of the ten most influential DPs of all time in a 2003 poll. I then immediately noticed how terrible the film looked. He was over 70 when he shot it, but come on. I couldn't immediately recall Zsigmond's other credits, but looking him up, I was reminded that he just died earlier this year -- the first day of this year, to be exact. Another coincidence is that he also shot McCabe & Mrs. Miller -- a film renowned for its distinct look, and also a film that I just returned to the library in the batch of films that did not end up including Jersey Girl. I'd seen it (and loved it) already but wanted to schedule a second viewing. I actually did find the time, but on that Sunday night I was particularly tired and made it through only 30 minutes before I had to stop and go to sleep. I tried to renew it yesterday so I could complete the viewing on a week-plus delay, but had to return it because someone had reserved it. So to summarize: I got to watch all of Jersey Girl, but not all of McCabe & Mrs. Miller. Not an even trade there.

6) Affleck's character's daughter is fixated on seeing the musical Cats. I hadn't been thinking much about Cats at all in the past, say, ten years. But then a week or so ago, while half-watching an episode of Pokemon my son was watching, I heard the part where they go "Who's that Pokemon?" And then "It's Charmander!" (Or whoever.) As if from nowhere I was struck by the idea that Pokemon names are about equally nonsensical to the names of the characters in Cats. So I posted on Facebook that it would be fun to substitute one for the other. "Who's that Pokemon?" "It's Rum Tum Tugger!" "Who's that Pokemon?" "It's Skimbleshanks!" So having this movie bring up Cats as well was another coincidence.

7) Because Cats has closed on Broadway, Affleck and his daughter go to Sweeney Todd instead. Twice in the past week Tim Burton's movie version of that show has come up in conversations I've had, with the other person defending it as a quality film and me disagreeing with them. Maybe not entirely coincidental but worthy of note anyway, Burton's new movie, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, had just opened here in Melbourne the day before.

8) Although she's in it only at the beginning, Jennifer Lopez made flops with Affleck in consecutive years, first Gigli and then this. As it happens, I like both of these flops a fair bit more than most people seem to.

9) Mike Starr is in this movie, and I just thought about Dumb and Dumber, in which he also appears, the other day.

Okay, that last one was a joke to let you know I'm out of legitimate coincidences.

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