’bout the size of a squash ball

26 May

A little film called Gigantic came out a few years ago to little fanfare, earned little acclaim, then exited into the wings. Which is really too bad, because while it overreaches occasionally, somehow hitting too subtle and too obvious at the same time, it’s writing—especially the dialogue—is incredible. Much of its brilliance probably has to do with John Goodman as a rich eccentric with his back out of whack, but still, the writing is worth a second look—or a first. Below: six exceptional scenes.

[Obviously, delivery is vital so if you’re even remotely intrigued, go rent the movie. It’s streaming on Netflix. Cast includes Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, and Zach Galifianakis, who’s better here as a homeless man than in anything he’s done since.]

Scene 1
In the high-end mattress warehouse where Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano) works; Al Lolly (John Goodman) comes in

Al Lolly: “Alright what’s the story on this thing?”
Brian Weathersby: “It’s the last bed you’ll ever buy.”
Al: “It’s the only bed I’ve ever bought, how much?”
Brian: “Fourteen thousand dollars.”
Al: “American? That’s a lot of money for a goddamn bed… Alright. I’ll send my girl by this afternoon, take a look, and work out the financing. Fourteen grand, that’s the price you quoted me, not a penny more, so don’t try to jew the price up on me. You’re not Jewish are you?”
Brian: “No… I’m not.”
Al: “Good, it’s just a figure of speech. I’m half Jew myself, I work with Jews, they jew me all day long, so I can say it.”
Brian: “Okay, there’s shipping and handling, though—”
Al: “Nope. Fourteen grand. Work it out, Chester. Let’s go, Gary, this place depresses me.”

:: :: ::

Scene 2
In the examination room of a back specialist

Doctor: “Structurally, there are no abnormalities. This has to do with your musculature and your ligaments. This has to be the last time we talk about this.”
Al: “What about ruptured discs?”
Doctor: “That is bullshit. All that shit is fucking, fucking bullshit. Back disorders, duodenal ulcers, the most misdiagnosed conditions attributed to middle-aged men today. I’m not going down that road. Stress, Al. Tension. Weariness. That’s what causes most of this shit. Let me show you something. Look at that energy pattern.”
Al: “You look at it. I’ll go along with it, but I’m not fucking stressed.”

:: :: ::

Scene 3
In the car coming from the doctor’s office; Brian, Happy (Al’s daughter, played by Zooey Deschanel), and Al are in the car

Al: “Did you know I had brain cancer once, Brian?”
Brian: “No…”
Al: “Yep. Huge tumor on the recesses of my temporal lobe.”
Brian: “But you’re okay now…”
Al: “Yep. One hundred percent holistic. No chemo, no radiation.”
Brian: “What’d you do?”
Al: “I mapped the pathology of the cancer with my mind. Very Chinese. Yup, then I moved it, again with meditation. I pushed it down into the fatty tissue of my temporal lobe—two months. Then I moved it into my nasal cavity—three months. Then, then one day, I just hocked it up. ‘Bout the size of a squash ball. You play squash, Brian?”

:: :: ::

Scene 4
Brian’s father and brothers are in a cabin in Vermont, preparing to go hunting for mushrooms

Brian’s Brother, James: “I talked to a local. He said there were some hen of the woods and black trumpets south side of Tremper—lower elevations than last year.”
[Brian’s other brother, John, cocks rifle]
Brian’s Father: “You bringin’ that?”
John: “Yep. Might be some pheasant.”
Brian: “Pheasant with a death wish?”
John: “Yep.”
Father: “That’s tradition: He brings the gun… he doesn’t use the gun… he throws up.”
John: “Thanks, Dad.”

:: :: ::

Scene 5
Brian and his father are walking in the woods, looking for mushrooms; his father asks about Brian’s ongoing attempts to adopt a baby from China

Father: “Any news from China?”
Brian: “Not really. Same stuff, I’m on a list. Could be a couple years, could be earlier.”
Father: “Well listen. My friend, Jin Ho, a very powerful business man right here in the States. He owns an airline company or tobacco interests or some crap like that, and he might be able to help you.”
Brian: “Well, I think he’s Korean, Dad, if that’s what you mean.”
Father: “He’s Korean… Yes! Well yes, he’s a marvelous Korean man, isn’t he! Of no help to you! Well. I hope it happens. It’d be nice to have some new life in this family. Hope you get the kid. I think you’d be great at it.”
Brian: “You think so?”
Father: “I do, I do, I do, I do. You’ve got what it takes.”
Brian: “What does it take?”
Father: “Ah. Well. I haven’t the foggiest idea to be truthful. But. Listen, here we are, walking together in the woods, and if you can aspire… to be walking in the woods with your kids after you’ve made it as far as we’ve made it, then I think you’ve done the right thing!”
Brian: “That makes sense.”
Father: “It makes sense…? Not really. But I think you understand me.”
Brian: “I do.”
Brian: “Dad!”
James: “Dad!”
John: “What the fuck?”
Brian: “Dad…?”
John: “Where the fuck did it come from?”
James: “Are you alright?”
Father: “Yeah, yeah. I’m the war generation, when we hear shots, we get down. You guys are running around like targets.”

:: :: ::

Scene 6
Happy calls her mother, who clearly has been drinking

Happy: “Mom?”
Mother: “Yeah, who’s this?”
Happy: “It’s, it’s Harriet.”
Mother: “Harriet… how are you, dear?”
Happy: “I’m okay.”
Mother: “Oh, it’s good to hear your voice.”
Happy: “Thanks. What are you up to?”
Mother: “Are you gonna get out here to see me? It’s been too long, dear.”
Happy: “Um where are you exactly?”
Mother: “It’s the new place, the New Mexico house, Taos.”
Happy: “Oh, I thought it said Naples, Florida, 809…?”
[long pause]
Mother: [looking around] “The, uh, the Florida house.”
Happy: “Oh. When did you move out there?”
Mother: “Uh, after Taos. We come here for the polo season and Paul’s car show.”
Happy: “Is Paul the new boyfriend?”
Mother: [a bit sing-song] “He is.”
Happy: “Hm. Great. What does he do?”
Mother: “Oh nothing, he likes cars, and he owns a few ponies.”
[another pause]
Happy: “What are you up to?”
Mother: “I’m relaxing, I’m just here with some of my lady friends, and we’re just doing what we do.”
[she’s alone]

Happy: “I actually just called to ask you something.”
Mother: “I don’t know what you could possibly ask me.”
Happy: “Well, just sort of a general question, mom.”
Mother: “You know I still get these alumni newsletters from Graten. Do you want me to hold on to them? I could put them in an envelope for you or something—”
Happy: “No, that’s okay. Can I just ask you this thing?”
Mother: “Alright… if you feel that you must.”

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