Apparently, screenwriting workshops have been encouraging fledgling filmmakers to withhold their lead characters' backstories for as long as possible, because lately there's been a rash of indie dramas and comedies in which people hint about dark secrets and profound tragedy in their pasts, but don't reveal anything until after about 90 minutes of inexplicable behavior and brooding. Case-in-point: Marianna Palka's twisted romantic comedy Good Dick, in which homeless video store employee Jason Ritter becomes smitten with a mousy, porn-obsessed customer played by Palka. Why is he so obsessed with getting her to open up and talk about why she loves porn? More importantly, why does she tolerate him? If it weren't for these questions, introduced early, Good Dick would be devoid of any reason to keep watching.


Slackers who sit around a Los Angeles video store arguing about pop culture and sex dominate the cast. Ritter's the exception. He's a sweet-natured dreamer who lives out of his car, and is willing to let Palka torture him with bizarre demands just for the chance to get closer to her. Ritter's the kind of cutesy emo-boy who sleeps on Palka's couch then wakes up early so he can tie a string to her foot, attached to a thank-you note in the other room. And she's the kind of impenetrably offbeat gal who doesn't think it's strange when he insists on washing her hair before he'll let her wear a piece of jewelry he wants to share. In other words: Good Dick is indie-quirk to the motherfucking core. Not a single line or gesture has anything to do with the world in which real people live.

Some of Good Dick's clerk-chat is funny—especially anything involving the perpetually put-upon Martin Starr—and some of the more twisted aspects of the Ritter/Palka relationship hold a perverse fascination. But mostly the movie is eccentric and edgy in childish ways, relying on offhand shock and predictable revelations. Mainly, Good Dick just proves that TV actors like Ritter make good indie-film hires, because they'll go along with whatever ridiculous nonsense a novice filmmaker concocts.