In dramatic terms the boy-meets-girl and falls in love formula is familiar and staid. In Good Dick Glasgow-born Marianna Palka (writer, director and actress) takes a departure from her previous work, which includes ‘For My American Friends,’ a documentary on Maryhill, to reinvent a dull genre.
The film documents a dejected girl (Palka) whose sole company are the pornographic DVDs she obtains from a boy (played by off-screen boyfriend Jason Ritter) who works at her local video rental shop. After a brief and unforthcoming exchange the boy conspires to penetrate the mysterious girl’s life in an intrusive yet endearing fashion.
Though in synopsis the relationship between a monosyllabic porn-addict and a homeless video store clerk might sound improbable, the basis for couple’s connection becomes clear as the film unfurls. “She” is morose and struggles with intimacy while “he” is patient and lonely. They find solace in each others company despite their peculiarities and propensity for bickering.
The implausible practicalities of the boy’s pursuit (such as the remote likelihood of finding a parcel with a security gate code to the girl’s apartment written on it) are a weakness. However these are overshadowed by the exchanges between the two protagonists which are convincing and at times affecting. But this film is far from saccharine; when the boy washes the girl’s lank, unkempt hair and proceeds to brush it she rebuffs him.
Visually the grey tones of the girl’s clothes and apartment reflect her melancholy demeanour (the brightest items to be found are the orange covers of the DVDs she rents). However the stark realism of Good Dick is allayed by the unexpected humour that is interwoven throughout. In conversation the boy declares, “I think my dick looks really nice” to which the girl jibes, “That’s cos you’re an idiot.” Though marketed in a manner befitting most anonymous, gross-out American comedies, Good Dick rarely goes for obvious laughs, lest it should undermine the powerful sense of pathos it succeeds in conveying.
The namelessness of Palka and Ritter’s characters is a device which serves not to distance the audience but remind them of the universality of the themes they portray: that love and sexuality are tools that can open a closed person.
Good Dick is an absorbing and original film that illustrates the all-round talents of Palka – that she creates an uplifting film out of outwardly dour and realistic material is an achievement. This urban fairy tale reminds us of the transformative power of love, however unconventional.