J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Jack and Diane: With No Apologies to Mellencamp


You could possibly liken lycanthropy to puberty because they both involve dramatic physical transformation.  It is a dubious comparison, but evidently it was enough for writer-director Bradley Gray Rust to build a film around.  As a result, love is rather messy in several ways for two young women in Jack & Diane (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in New York.

Diane dresses like Goldie Hawn on Laugh-In.  Tomboyish Jack dresses like Tim Allen on Home Improvement.  However, when the two hipsters see each other, it is love at first gawk.  Lost in Manhattan not far from Evacuation Zone A, the visiting Diane accepts Jack’s offer of hospitality.  The British Diane seems to exist in a state of arrested development, but it evidently works for the tough-on-the-outside-needy-on-the-inside Jack.  Yet, just as their whirlwind romance begins, miscommunication and Diane’s meddling aunt threaten to tear it asunder.

Coming between these kids might be dangerous though.  In moments of extreme emotional agitation Diane transforms into a werewolf—but, not really.  For the most part, the lycanthropy is metaphorical, with only occasional hints that these trippy interludes have real consequences.  At least they look distinctive, animated by the celebrated Quay Brothers in a style that is better described as macabre than frightening.

Frankly, it is a wonder Rust has not been picketed by the Hollywood thought police, considering J&D essentially equates its characters’ lesbianism with something explicitly monstrous.  However, he handles their relationship with keen sensitivity and reasonably good taste.  Indeed, J&D is being touted as the lesbian werewolf movie, but it is likely to disappoint fanboys hoping for either sort of exploitation.

Instead, J&D is your basic downtown indie.  It is not mumblecore, but you can see it from here.  Still, the earnest sincerity co-leads Juno Temple and an unrecognizable Riley Keough (Elvis’s granddaughter) bring to their characters shines through strikingly.  Unfortunately, they are not well served by some overripe dialogue and the rather laborious pace.

If you were wondering, the Mellencamp song never appears on the J&D soundtrack and the ex-Johnny Cougar is reportedly not thrilled by the association.  Be that as it may, the film itself is not terrible, but it is far from a cohesive whole.  The Quays and particularly Keough did some fine work, but the concept remains only half-developed.  Fans of the animators should find it worth checking out, but they can safely wait for Netflix and the like.  For the curious, Jack & Diane opens tomorrow (11/2) in New York at the Cinema Village.

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