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'All the Real Girls'

'Real Girls' is a rustic romance

Friday, May 23, 2003

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Film Critic

Appalachian summer is a more wistful, yearning season than its celebrated spring in "All the Real Girls," an atypical love story and regional slice of life.


RATING: R for sexual themes and language.

STARRING: Paul Schneider, Zooey Deschanel, Shea Wigham

DIRECTOR: David Gordon Green


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Western Pennsylvanians are possessive of the old range: We know our Apps extend into West Virginia but forget they keep on going all the way through North Carolina and Georgia, whose mill towns form a rust belt that makes ours look stainless-steel.

One such is Marshall, N.C., where charming Paul (Paul Schneider) has spent his whole life. He's still living with his mom, working for his uncle and keeping up his reputation as the high-school Don Juan who could (and did) have every girl in town.

With his same retinue of rowdy pals, there's not a lot of emotional growth here -- until his best friend's virginal sister, Noel (Zooey Deschanel), comes back after six years away at school.

Is it love or just lust in which Paul falls?

Director David Gordon Green ("George Washington") renders the tender sensuality in a genuinely unpretentious way. In a story about sexuality, there is virtually no sex -- rather a nice change of pace. It gets a bit soapy ("The Days of Our Backwater Lives") but survives through the naturalistic acting of Schneider and Deschanel (of "Almost Famous" almost fame).

The script of this rusty rustic romance, set in its curiously post-diluvian place, sports some nice local idioms. My fave: "I'll slap you naked and hide your clothes!"

Barry Paris can be reached at 412-263-3859.

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