While I’m inclined to think I overrated David Gordon Green’s All the Real Girls when in first appeared in 2003, it’s still a film with much to recommend it for what it tries to do and for Tim Orr’s gorgeous wide-screen photography. Also, it carries an inescapable local appeal as one of the few locally made films that looks like it’s taking place in this area. What I mean by this is that it isn’t shot at the Biltmore House, nor does it try to pick locations that might be “anywhere,” as so many films inexplicably do. Indeed, Tim Orr’s beautiful time-lapse footage of the disused Sayles Bleachery is probably the last good look we have of the place before it was replaced by Super Wal-Mart, giving the film a certain historical significance.
The somewhat slender romantic comedy/drama has other things to recommend it. The lead performances from Zooey Deschanel and Asheville’s own Paul Schneider are quite good, with a refreshing air of reality. The overall premise of Schneider’s character falling in love with Deschanel, despite his best efforts not to, is nicely drawn, and some of the set pieces—the bowling-alley scene, for example—have a simple charm that’s rarely found in modern depictions of romance. In some ways, this is a very old-fashioned film.
It’s also a pleasure to come across a low-budget indie that’s actually interested in production values and looking as good as it can. All too often—and it isn’t getting any better—indie productions like to wear their lack-of-budget on their sleeves, as if it’s some kind of badge of honor. One of the problems with this is that it frequently ends up being an excuse for shoddy filmmaking. There’s none of that here. This is a film that constantly does its damnedest to look as professional as possible, and it pays off.
The problem I encountered upon revisiting the film lay in the fact that Green simply doesn’t write very good dialogue. I’m guessing the idea is that it’s realistic, and that may be true, but it’s also not terribly engaging. Similarly—and I know I originally praised this aspect of the film—the latter portions of the film tend to drag a bit. Still, overall, I’d go with my original assessment that more about the film works than doesn’t—and it certainly gets high marks for effort.