Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Kevin Smith|
|Produced by||Scott Mosier|
|Written by||Kevin Smith|
|Music by||James L. Venable|
|Distributed by||Miramax Films|
|Box office||$36.1 million|
Jersey Girl is a 2004 American comedy-drama film written, co-edited and directed by Kevin Smith. It stars Ben Affleck, Liv Tyler, George Carlin, Stephen Root, Mike Starr and Raquel Castro. The film follows a young man who must take care of his precocious daughter in the midst of a family tragedy.
It was the first film written and directed by Smith not to be set in the View Askewniverse as well as the first not to feature appearances by Jay and Silent Bob, although animated versions of them appear in the View Askew logo. At $35 million, it is Smith's biggest-budgeted film, and went on to become a box-office bomb, grossing just $36 million.
Ollie Trinké (Ben Affleck) is a powerful media publicist in New York City whose wife, Gertie (Jennifer Lopez), sadly dies during childbirth with an aneurysm. To avoid his grief, he buries himself in his work and ignores his new daughter, Gertie, while his father, Bart (George Carlin)--(who also lost his own wife many years prior), takes a month off from work to take care of her, but returns a while later so that his son Ollie is forced to live up to his responsibility as a single parent. Under the stress of a botched diaper change and a baby who will not stop crying, he trashes his client, Will Smith, for his soon-to-be released film, Independence Day, in front of assembled reporters. Unfortunately, this costs him his job, so he moves back in with Bart in New Jersey. He eventually apologizes for ignoring Gertie, and attributes his public outburst to his grief.
Blacklisted by all of New York City's public relations firms, Ollie has to work as a civil servant in the borough where he now lives with his father. Seven years later, Gertie (Raquel Castro), now in elementary school, often coaxes him to rent films to watch. At the video store, they meet Maya (Liv Tyler), a graduate student and one of the clerks, whose uninhibited probing into Ollie's love life almost leads to them having casual sex. She soon becomes a part of their lives.
As part of his job in the borough, Ollie speaks to a group of outraged citizens to win over their approval for a major public works project that will temporarily close a street in the neighborhood. His successful and enjoyable interaction with them leads him to realize how much he misses the public relations work. He contacts Arthur (Jason Biggs), his one-time protégé, who sets up a promising interview.
The prospect of moving back to New York City creates tension among Ollie, Gertie, Bart, and Maya, especially when he says that his interview is on the same day as Gertie's school talent show. She yells at him, saying she hates him and that she wishes he had died instead of her mother. He claims he hates her right back, and says she and her mother Gertie took his life away and he just wants it back. He immediately regrets it and tries to apologize, but the damage is done and she angrily pushes him away and runs to her room, crying. A few days later they finally patch things up, and she accepts the fact that they will be moving to New York City. While waiting to be interviewed, he has a chance encounter with Will Smith (playing himself), whom he trashed at his public outburst years before. Smith has no idea who Ollie is, but they have a conversation about work and children that persuades Ollie to skip the interview and leave.
Ollie rushes to make it to Gertie's Sweeney Todd performance at the last moment. The film ends with him, Gertie, Bart, Maya, and the rest celebrating at the bar. He and Maya hint at possible feelings for each other before being interrupted by Gertie. He holds her in his arms and says that they are staying in New Jersey because he decided to not take the job. She asks why he did so if he loved it so much. He then says that he thought he did, but he loves his new life more because being a father to her was the only thing that he was ever really good at.
The film's budget included $10 million for Affleck and $4 million for Lopez. In the original draft of the script, Bruce Willis rather than Will Smith was the cause of (and eventual resolution to) Ollie's problems. Smith wrote the first fifty pages of the script with Bill Murray and Joey Lauren Adams in mind. The film was primarily shot in Highlands, New Jersey.Academy Award-winning Vilmos Zsigmond, its director of photography, was said by Smith to have been "an ornery old cuss who made the crew miserable."Paulsboro, New Jersey served as another of the shooting locations; scenes were shot there at its municipal building, Clam Digger Bar, and high school. Cut from it were scenes at Paulsboro's St. John's Church and Little League Field. The scene in the church was to show the marriage between Ollie and Gertie; it was cut shortly after Affleck and Lopez split up in real life and their scenes were reshot, reducing her part due to concern over the poor box office reception of Gigli.
It is the first major theatrical release to include a 9/11 joke: when Gertie asks to see Cats, Ollie refuses on the grounds that it is "the second-worst thing to happen to New York City." On the second episode of the podcast "Blow Hard with Malcolm Ingram", Smith tells a story of Malcolm sending him lyrics to "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac, trying to apologize for an earlier incident. He was so touched by the email that he included the song in the soundtrack.
Jason Mewes, the actor who plays Jay in the View Askewniverse films, was to have a part in the film as "Delivery Guy" with the memorable "crotch rot" line, but Kevin Smith had temporarily severed ties with him as part of a "tough love" approach to get him to quit using heroin. The role was given to Matthew Maher. Betty Aberlin, best known as Lady Aberlin of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood's Neighborhood of Make-Believe, portrays Gertie's teacher, a nun. She also portrayed one in Smith's earlier film Dogma.
The film is Smith's first to have received a PG-13 rating, rather than an R. According to interviews with Smith in the documentary This Film is Not Yet Rated, it was originally given an R, due to the dialogue with Ollie and Maya discussing masturbation in the diner, but the decision was overturned. An extended cut was shown at Kevin Smith's private film festival Vulgarthon in 2005 & 2006. The extended version included much more of the Jennifer Lopez section, Ben Affleck's full speech at city hall, a longer ending, and some music changes. On the film's audio commentary, Smith stated that a longer version would be released within the next year. At a Q&A session in Vancouver in early 2009, Smith said that a release of the extended cut on DVD and Blu-ray Disc is "very possible". It has not been released as of 2018.
The film grossed $25.2 million in North America, and $10.8 million internationally, for a total gross of $36.1 million, against a $35 million budget.
Jersey Girl received mixed reviews from critics. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 42% based on 173 reviews, with an average rating of 5.3/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A surprisingly conventional romantic comedy from Kevin Smith, Jersey Girl is warm but often overly sentimental" On Metacritic, the film has a score of 43 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Smith was quoted saying his film was "not for critics". Smith's reaction to Jersey Girl after its failure was dour. He referenced the film during his cameo appearance in Degrassi: The Next Generation, jokingly telling Paige Michalchuk, whom his character had cut out of his fictional film Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh!, that he cut Lopez out of most of Jersey Girl and wanted to cut Affleck out too, "but then it just would have been that little kid." In an interview on the Clerks II DVD, Smith noted "All these people were just trashing this movie's stars instead of looking at the movie itself. I get that a lot of people didn't like it but dude, I spent two years of my life on that movie."
The film was nominated for three Razzie Awards: Worst Actor for Ben Affleck, Worst Supporting Actress for Jennifer Lopez, and according to the press release, "Ben Affleck and either Jennifer Lopez or Liv Tyler" for Worst On-Screen Couple. Raquel Castro won a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film - Young Actress Age Ten or Younger, for her performance, and the film was nominated for Best Family Feature Film - Comedy or Musical, but lost to Christmas with the Kranks.