There’s a lot of money being made in real estate, especially in California. The problem is its real estate investors who are making millions and not the typical (or atypical) family. Prices are so high, the dream of homeownership is just that… a dream. J.P. Allen’s Girl in Golden Gate Park is a revenge story about the innocent victims of corporate greed.
Jean (Kim Jiang) lives in her car after being evicted from her San Francisco apartment by corporate real estate developer, Ms. Moore (Allison Ewing). It’s not that she wasn’t paying her rent. Moore purchased the building and planned to build a more modern building or, as she puts it, affordable “high-density housing.”
As Jean is stewing in her anger, she develops a plan to exact revenge against Mr. Moore, but she needs help. Every night, Jean parks her car by San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, where she can exercise, people watch, and plan. One afternoon, she observes Joni (Erin Mei-Ling Stuart) talking to some tourists and then stealing jewelry they had just purchase. Jean approaches Joni and tells her she admires her “work.” Joni denies everything, but the two become friends… and more.
Jean now uses her new friendship and budding relationship to coax Joni into robbing Ms. Moore to teach her a lesson. Though really, it is to make her pay for the pain she caused her family.
“…lives in her car after being evicted from her San Francisco apartment by corporate real estate developer…”
Girl in Golden Gate Park is not what you think it is. In fact, it’s a little hard to pin down. The story is more about exploring themes than it is about revenge. Starting broad, J.P. Allen’s film is a love letter to Golden Gate Park. Most of it was shot at the park, and Jean reflects in voice over the sense of wonder she felt visiting the park for the first time. There is a vast diversity of people and cultural activities that Golden Gate Park is known for, and it’s this diversity that made her feel like she belonged.
Speaking of belonging, the film’s overarching theme is the idea of home and belonging—Jean questions whether a home is about things (memories) or a place. With Joni, it’s about the one who is there when she comes home. Ms. Moore learns that home is not about economics and business.
The pacing is slow and methodical. Kim Jiang plays Jean as reflective and calculating. As much as I sympathized with her plight, Jiang offers enough questions to wonder who is the story’s real villain. Even as a professional pickpocket, Erin Mei-Ling Stuart’s Joni is the moral center, and loyalties shift in the third act when Jean’s plan is in full effect.
I’ll pander for a moment in just how great it is to see two Asian-American women in the lead roles when they could quickly have gone to more experienced actors. There’s really nothing Asian-American specific about the story other than it takes place in Golden Gate Park.
Watching Girl in Golden Gate Park, you will get its indie vibe. I say this because you’re not going to get a traditional thriller—full of action and suspense. What you will get is a thoughtful character study. Though I would recommend the film, it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
"…the pacing is slow and methodical...reflective and calculating..."