Jersey Guy

Review by Adam Blair

Directed by Elia Zois
Screenplay by Elia Zois and Christ Zois
With Steve Parlavecchio, Arthur Nascarella, Stacy Mistysyn, Ralph Caputo and Jill Wolfe

Rated R: 90 minutes

The best part of Jersey Guy occurs when two of the characters watch about 90 seconds of the George Stevens classic film A Place in the Sun. Even shown on a television set and interrupted by the vapid dialogue of Jersey Guy, Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and Shelley Winters blow everyone else off the screen. Of course, they had an actual screenplay and a talented director, both of which Jersey Guy are conspicuously lacking. Note to first-time filmmakers: include clips and/or references to classic films at your own risk. And for heaven's sake, don't compound the comparison by then doing a dream scene based on the rowboat murder from the film you're quoting!

Jersey Guy concerns Jack (Steve Parlavecchio), a 25-year-old Jersey guy who works at a nursing home, still lives at home with his parents, and is trying to avoid commitment and marriage to his long-term girlfriend Susan (Stacy Mistysyn). He takes a trip into the somewhat alien territory of downtown Manhattan and meets a beautiful model named Samantha (Jill Wolfe). Apparently models are as dumb as everyone says they are, because she not only thinks Jack is nice but also that he's interesting and funny. The girl has had too many bright lights shined in her eyes, or someone has spiked her heroin with Prozac.

You can probably guess the rest. Jack has to decide if he can make that big trip through the Holland Tunnel and choose a different life than the one everyone expects him to fall into. And that's about it. Just enough plot to fill about 30 minutes, but it's stretched to feature length by several ingenious devices: having characters repeat parts of each other's lines; two or three unnecessary reaction shots in each scene; and my favorite, several excruciating exchanges among Jack and his none-too-bright co-workers at the nursing home, which cover in detail action that we had already witnessed in previous scenes.

This movie doesn't even have the courage of the clichés implied by its title. Yes, Jack is an Italian-American Jersey guy - we can tell because he eats pizza with his girlfriend. This film shows the barest sense of suburban life, and even less sense of the New York modeling scene. I would say the director was going for satire but if it is, it's at the most basic, junior high school level.

There's just the barest hint of real feeling in the scenes between Jack and his father (Arthur Nascarella), but even these are so poorly directed, and so repetitive, that the goodwill built up by the actors is quickly dissipated.

I hope the actors in this film get some real parts to play soon, because it's impossible to tell if they're any good by this movie. Film critics are often accused of being cruel, especially to home-grown, homespun little movies that are obviously labors of love for the filmmakers. While some of us are undoubtedly old meanies, we probably got this way from watching too many misshapen, amateurish movies like Jersey Guy. This is the kind of independent movie that gives independent movies a bad name.

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