In George Washington, director David Gordon Green explored the feelings and frustrations of being a child living in a small southern town; the characters wanting to leave, unsure if they can or ever will. In Green’s sophomore film, All The Real Girls, we see the people who never left.
All The Real Girls takes place in a small mill town in North Carolina, just as depressed as the one from George Washington, yet completely different. The film focusses on the town’s ladies man, Paul, played by Paul Schneider. While he has been with nearly every woman his age in the small town, you wonder why. He is not smart, particularly charming or even very handsome. However, in this town he is about all there is.
We enter the lives of the film’s characters as Paul’s best-friend’s sister, Noel, comes back to town. Against his best-friend’s wishes, Paul begins a relationship with her.
While there is certainly more structure and story to All The Real Girls, than in George Washington the film still relies heavily on mood and feelings. We see right away that Paul is not just going after Noel as another conquest. He sees something in her; she has been away, she is different than the rest of the town. It may be too naive to be true love, but Paul doesn’t see it that way as he falls head first into his first love affair.
Paul sees Noel as his escape, his way of realizing that his life in this town is nothing, however Noel doesn’t see herself in the same way. As Paul is changing for the better, Noel has come back to this small town as a way of almost giving up. The characters in the film aren’t particularly smart, or ambitious, however, Green never looks down on them. Green’s people aren’t caricatures, they are real people. Watching the film you sometimes get this strange, uncomfortable feeling, as if you were spying on people’s lives.
While George Washington had an almost dream-like quality to it, All The Real Girls seems utterly real. From the cinematography to the performances, the film just feels authentic. Green’s DP from George Washington returns to shoot this film, and while his debut was beautiful; Orr has clearly grown as a cinematographer. Both Green and Orr have lost most of their film school clichéd tricks that once or twice showed up in their debut.
All The Real Girls doesn’t try to say anything too profound, often it just feels as if Green wants to express how he felt at the time of making the film. However, that is not a bad thing; in fact it is one of the things that makes the film so special. It is not pretentious, or obvious, it is instead honest, sweet and heartbreaking.