‘Good Dick' is a Good Flick

One may wonder why Marianna Palka (the filmmaker) elected to use such a problematic title. Although the chosen title is not crucial to the film, it inevitably creates box office resistance. However, during her recent visit to Philadelphia, Ms. Palka spoke emphatically about her decision, insisting that it conveyed the essence of the film. She offered a convincing defense of the off-color title for her work, which explores how different people have different notions of what constitutes pleasurable sex.

Every night, a twenty-something female shows up at a Los Angeles video store and rents three films. She’s virtually mute and studiously avoids interaction with the clerks, all of whom are slacker males (also in their twenties).

One of the clerks (Jason Ritter) becomes smitten with the woman. She’s reasonably attractive in terms of visual aesthetics, but hardly stunning. As for her personality, calling it subdued would be generous. She's close to zombified. She never expresses the slightest interest in the clerk and is just short of rude in spurning his efforts to make chit chat with her. The male co-protagonist's affinity for the female co-protagonist is one of the salient questions that the film never fully addresses.

The video clerk gets the customer’s home address by accessing her video store membership application. He then embarks in a pattern of stalking behavior. He shows up at her apartment complex. When he sees her, he tries to once again strike up another conversation with her. She freaks out at his social overture and literally runs away from him to avoid contact. He calls after her and tries to sooth her discomfort by lying, claiming that he’s there to visit his aunt who supposedly lives in the apartment complex.  

Undaunted, he persists in his odd courtship of her by showing up at the apartment complex, ostensibly to visit his aunt. One day, to elicit her sympathy, he starts to cry, claiming that his mythical aunt has just died. Throughout the film, the male is presented as a genuinely nice guy and, as portrayed by Mr. Ritter, he does exude a certain earnest charm. However, the film glosses over the fact that he is engaging in the behavior of a dangerously obsessed stalker, who regularly resorts to prevarication to advance his agenda.

Ms. Palka takes the approach of rationing out bits of information about her characters. At a certain juncture, we learn that the male protagonist is homeless and living in a car. Subsequently, we learn that he was once a heroin addict. The viewer is left to reconcile how this homeless man with a history of hard drug use has the upbeat attitude of a wholesome man, just off the bus from some small town in the Midwest. Wouldn’t he be more likely to harbor a jaundiced perspective? It’s awfully difficult to reconcile his modus viviendi with his sweet natured optimism. Near the end of the film, we finally discover why the female co-protagonist is so detached from human contact. Unlike the male co-star, at least the female co-star’s persona is congruent with her back story.

Good Dick” is plagued by certain artistic decisions, which may create frustration for the viewer. Nevertheless, it emerges as an interesting character study. Belatedly, “Good Dick” presents elements of a disarmingly hopeful vision of the possibility of love between misfits.

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