Now blacklisted by all the New York public relations firms, Ollie has tried unsuccessfully for years to get work as a publicist. He finally takes work as a civil servant in the borough where he now lives to get by. Gertie (Raquel Castro), now in elementary school, often coaxes her father to rent movies to watch. At the video store, they meet Maya (Liv Tyler), one of the store's clerks. Maya soon becomes a good friend and part of their lives.
As part of his job in the borough, Ollie speaks to a group of outraged citizens to win over their approval for a major public works project that will temporarily close a street in the neighborhood. His successful and enjoyable interaction with the crowd leads him to realize how much he misses the public relations work. He contacts Arthur (Jason Biggs), his one-time protégé, who sets up a promising interview.
The real prospect of moving to New York creates tension between Ollie and his daughter, his father, and Maya, especially when he says that his interview is on the same day as Gertie's show. Gertie yells at Ollie, saying she hates him and that she wishes he died instead of her mom. Ollie says that he hates her and her mother just as much for ruining his life before he knows what he's saying. Ollie desperately tries to apologize immediately after saying that, but Gertie pushes him away and runs into her room, crying. Ollie tries to clear his head by visiting his wife's grave, but it makes him even more sad. He and Gertie apologize to each other, and Gertie accepts the fact that they're moving. However, while waiting to be interviewed, Ollie has a chance encounter with Will Smith (playing himself), who Ollie had trashed at his public outburst years before. Smith has no idea who Ollie is but their conversation about work and children makes Ollie decide to sacrifice the former for the latter.
Ollie is able to make it to his daughter's "Sweeney Todd" musical performance at the last second (she chose "God, That's Good!", which, as it turned out, was the only one not to be "Memory" from Cats). The film ends with Ollie, Gertie, Bart, Maya, and the rest celebrating at the bar. Ollie hugs Maya, but they are interrupted by Gertie who asks Maya if she can have her dad now. Maya lets her. Ollie picks up Gertie and she asks if they're staying with Pop. Ollie says that they are and that he didn't take the job. Gertie asks if he'll take her to see Cats and he says no. Gertie then asks why he didn't take the job if he loved it so much. Ollie says that he thought he loved it, but he loved his new life more because being a father to Gertie was the only thing that he was really good at.
Jersey Girl was the first Kevin Smith film that did not feature Jay and Silent Bob. (This is due to the fact they are staple characters of the View Askewniverse, in which "Jersey Girl" was the first of Smith's films not to be set.) However, computer representations of them appear in the View Askew production logo. Jason Mewes, the actor who played Jay in the View Askewniverse films, would have had a non-Jay part in the film as Ollie's assistant Arthur. However, Kevin Smith had temporarily severed ties with him as part of a "tough love" approach to getting him to quit drugs. At the time, Mewes also had a bench warrant for his arrest in New Jersey for missing a mandatory court appearance on a possession charge.
In the original draft of the script, it was actually Bruce Willis rather than Will Smith who was the cause of (and eventual resolution to) Ollie's problems. Smith wrote the first fifty pages of the script with Bill Murray and Joey Lauren Adams in mind
The song "High" performed by The Cure appears in the foreground for the length of scene where Ben Affleck's character races back to New Jersey to participate in his daughter's performance. "Wandering" by Ben Folds (off the album Speed Graphic) is also used in the film.
An extended cut was shown at Kevin Smith's private film festival Vulgarthon in 2005 (and was shown again at the 2006 festival) and was met with a lot of praise, even from people who weren't fans of the original cut. Cut scenes that featured in the extended version included a much longer extension of the Jennifer Lopez section of the movie that fleshed out the characters more, Ben Affleck's full speech in the city hall, a longer ending, and some music changes.
On the film's audio commentary, Smith states that a longer version of the film will be released within the next year. As of September 2007, no announcement has been made. In a recent interview, Smith said that the company has now very little interest to put out the DVD, but saying they'll probably release it in a few years.
The film was not a commercial success at the box office, making only $25.2 million domestic and $10.6 million overseas against a $35 million dollar budget (easily Smith's largest) and a $15 million dollar marketing campaign. Like all of Smith's films, it has since gone on to profit from video and DVD sales.
The film was nominated for three Razzie Awards. Worst Actor for Ben Affleck, Worst Supporting Actress for Jennifer Lopez, and according to the press release, "Ben Affleck & EITHER Jennifer Lopez OR Liv Tyler" for Worst On-Screen Couple. Raquel Castro won a Young Artist Award for Best Performance in a Feature Film - Young Actress Age Ten or Younger for her performance and the film was nominated for Best Family Feature Film - Comedy or Musical.
Smith's reaction to Jersey Girl after its failure has been mixed. Smith has blamed at least part of the film's reception on public perceptions of the Lopez-Affleck relationship and their widely-panned previous release, Gigli, at one point joking that he hid himself in the corner of a motel room with his hands on his knees rocking back and forth while repeating over and over again BEN-IH-FEEER. Smith references this film during his cameo appearance in Degrassi: The Next Generation. He jokingly tells Paige, who he cut out of his fictional movie, that he wanted to cut out everything in Jersey Girl. During the ending credits of Clerks II, Smith references the film, thanking it for its existence despite being disliked by critics: "to Jersey Girl for taking it so hard in the ass and never complaining." When asked recently why he kept all his Jersey Girl posters hung up in his bathroom, he replied "Flick went in the shitter, so the posters followed suit. In a recent interview, he summed up his feelings on the film by saying "I think Jersey Girl was just one of those flicks that was the wrong time, the wrong guy, the wrong everything. But I still love it." In an interview from the Clerks II DVD, Smith noted "All these people were just thrashing this movies' stars instead of looking at the movie itself. I get that a lot of people didn't like it but dude, I spent 2 years of my life on that movie.
Despite its critical and commercial failure, the 2004 film is generally acknowledged as the first major studio theatrical release to make a 9/11 joke . (When Gertie asks to see Cats, Ollie refuses on the grounds that the long-running musical is "the second-worst thing to happen to New York.")