Here are just a few of the things unsuspecting moviegoers can expect from the teeming repository of indie quirk called Gigantic: A 28-year-old Swedish mattress salesman pursuing his lifelong dream of adopting a Chinese baby; a Manic Pixie Dream Girl whose given name is Harriet Lolly, but who answers to “Happy”; Ed Asner as a seemingly avuncular old man who gets high on ’shrooms at his Vermont home; comedian Zach Galifianakis as a homeless man who assaults the hero at various times with various implements; and a piñata shaped like Muammar Qaddafi. It would be nice to say that all of these elements have a purpose and somehow magically cohere in an unexpected, delightful way. But really, Gigantic is just a dream sequence with a dwarf away from the movie-within-a-movie in Living In Oblivion.
After his revelatory performance in There Will Be Blood, Paul Dano retreats to the semi-comatose mode of Little Miss Sunshine, but this time, he can’t fade into a big ensemble, waiting for somebody to puncture his mute fantasy of being a jet pilot. Unkempt and mumbly, Dano doesn’t make for a terribly persuasive high-end mattress salesman, but he lucks out when an obscenely wealthy businessman (John Goodman) stops in and buys the most expensive bed in the warehouse. When the businessman’s daughter (Zooey Deschanel at her mooniest) comes around later to complete the transaction, she and Dano hit it off. But first, Deschanel curls up for a long nap on one of the mattresses, because that’s what people do in movies like this.
Strip away all the superfluous nonsense—a task equivalent to defluffing a mound of cotton candy—and Gigantic could have been about the complications that Dano’s dreams of adoption present for his nascent relationship with Deschanel. But Dano and Deschanel are acting on different planets—he relentlessly inward-looking, she obliviously flighty—and co-writer/director Matt Aselton busies himself too much with pretty compositions and forced eccentricity to whip it into shape. Any resemblance the film bears to real people and real situations is purely coincidental.