Good Dick

In all honesty, I spend a lot of days with my head in the gutter. No aversion to perversion, if you will. That said, I still looked at first-time writer/director Marianna Palka's Good Dick and assumed it would perhaps be about someone's dog inexplicably given a full name of "Richard." Or perhaps a story centered on a heartfelt private detective with a healthy moral aptitude. But no, the title refers to the male-centric piece of genitalia. For the life of me, I can't imagine why this title was used. I also can't imagine what motivates these characters, besides a script that begs to be viewed as diverse and whimsical fare. For 86 minutes, we get to watch two emotionally stunted characters do everything in their power to have as little chemistry as possible. To its credit, Good Dick has an interesting premise and a buoyant cast, and the production values are top-notch considering the movie reportedly cost around $200,000. Choo-choo, this compliment train has reached its end. Good Dick is terrible twat. Going in, I knew I wasn't this movie's ideal audience. I prefer my romance in a (non-romance) book or television show where there is more time to flesh out a believable thread of compatibility between two people. Granted, there are countless movies whose lovey-dovey leads have won me over with witty banter and awkward playfulness, so I'm never averse to exceptions. Luckily for me, not once during Good Dick did I have to consider lowering my standards to allow myself to be affected in the least.

Good Dick centers around Jason Ritter's unnamed video store clerk, who enigmatically falls for (stalks) Palka's unnamed video store customer. She isn't renting your action flick of the week, however. She's mostly into exploitative adult movies where the women are treated like shit. I'm certain there were mainstream DVDs and VHSs in the store, but only the adult movies are referenced, which sheds a strange light on Ritter's character. As unfounded as it may be, I do indeed draw a line between Blockbuster employee and XXX-store employee. It's a questionable station of life if your early 20s are surrounded by erotica and other male adult video clerks, in this case played by Martin Starr (Bill Haverchuck, have mercy!), Eric Edelstein, and Mark Webber, all of whom are given actual character names. They all notice and comment on Palka's daily rentals, and her aversion to casual conversation or being appealing in any way. Ritter tries to flirt with her in that way that all men can now rest assured is successful. He denies her a rental based on the movie's poor quality (could someone have done me that justice?), and then sleeps outside her apartment building in his car until she answers her door and invites him in. No, I didn’t leave anything out. He seriously goes from miniscule, in-store chit-chat, which she ignores, to all-out lying about a dying aunt staying in the same apartment building as her, just so he can knock on her door every day. There are viral infections that leave more breathing room.

The theory I'm holding onto is that Ritter's character is into Palka's character because of her problems, and not in spite of them. Ritter and Palka are dating in real life, too, but I'll refrain from making the obvious comparisons. Palka's character is, in essence, a fairly interesting being. She's completely introverted and seems agoraphobic, except for her trips to the video store. And obviously a girl who's into porn is one to keep at an arm's length, but there are almost no other identifying qualities to her personality, much less one that would justify Ritter's puppy-dog persistence. She's the anti-Heather. Initially, she gives Ritter's character the benefit of the doubt for small-talk's sake, but then bounces back and forth between having the slightest of desires for him and being completely disgusted by him.

For no good reason whatsoever, she allows him to sleep on her couch for a few nights. I'm thinking she feels sorry for him, and she says a few things that kind of back that up. In a particularly horrid scene, the only one to center around the titular penis, Ritter's character wagers that he has a larger penis than the guy on the video they're watching. "Let's say it's eight and a half inches." If he wins, then he gets to lay in bed with her, no touching involved. If she wins....whatever, he wins. And then there's an extremely uneven, relevant-dialogue-be-damned scene where they lay back-to-back and he tells her some bullshit about how his Polish grandmother thought that "back-to-back" posturing was very powerful or something. I was too busy choosing to picture his father, John Ritter's, penis instead of listening.

By far, this movie's largest problem is the fever dream that is its dialogue, and the ways in which the actors either choose, or are forced, to speak it. I've seen Japanese cartoons that were more convincing. I understand that it's this Mamet-on-ether lackadaisical hobnobbing that will probably be its triumphant trait to its fan(s), just like I understand that racing is what makes the Fast/Furious franchise successful, and could give a shit less. Ritter plays his role as if there was nothing in his life before he sort of met this girl through her oddball rentals. And Palka plays her role as if she were allergic to being interesting and lives for making herself miserable – for example, by letting an obsessive stranger hang out indefinitely and watch sadistic porn with her. At the very least, I thought there would be some vaguely amusing conversations from the video store staff, what with Martin Starr being there. But sadly, they there. One guy makes fun of Martin Starr for not knowing where the clitoris is, and then maybe Martin Starr's girlfriend breaks up with him for it. And there's a thimble full of turmoil because Ritter's character is hiding his pursuits of the weird girl from the others. These scenes begin and end without any beginnings or endings, and it's frustrating.

There are exactly two scenes in the movie that give any sort of explanation or depth to the male and female leading characters. So for six minutes of unsatisfactory "Aha!" time, you get to wonder, but not really care, why these folks are so goddamned weird. And you are a fool if you think this "different" movie ends on anything but a relatively good note. Even if it has to completely shift its character focus to do it. As I said before, the film actually looks great. Palka will end up being a successful director and will make films I enjoy. The script itself isn't bad, in that she's not an ignorant writer. So she'll write some things I like, too. However, the umpteenth-most-annoying thing about this movie is that the score overrides almost everything. There can't be more than three full minutes of silence in the whole film, even though a large portion of the beginning and end is just a single character doing things by himself so that you understand who they are. And then they talk to someone else, and you wonder anew who the hell wrote this with conviction. It's not even a particularly good score. It's full and lush and Neil Diamond-y, as if the movie should be shown in elevators.

The special features are wonderfully sparse. There are trailers. There is an hour-long "On the Road to Sundance" documentary. That's not even the correct name. It's so blah. There are Q&As and candid stuff with some of the cast that are very interesting, actually. But the beginning and end and surrounding moments are just boring "van unpacking at a theater" and "snow falling on cars" footage and goofy or talkative shit. Jason Ritter on blues bass like whoa. And in a most bizarre turn, there is a gag reel, and not the 86-minute gag-inducing reel that preceded it. Har-har. It's decent.

Good Dick is plastic fruit. It looks convincing, but is empty and doesn't break when you drop it on the floor, unfortunately. It doesn't even bother to name its characters. Ugh. Again, I know somebody is going to like this because it's an intelligent movie on some ridiculous level, so I hope that person doesn't visit CinemaBlend. Sorry, "person."

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.