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Jack & Diane(2012)
Diane's feelings for Jack -- the girl she met over the summer -- begin to manifest themselves in terrifying ways when she learns that her friend will soon be moving away.
For more about Jack & Diane and the Jack & Diane Blu-ray release, see Jack & Diane Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on January 22, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Director: Bradley Rust Gray
Writer: Bradley Rust Gray
Starring: Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Kylie Minogue, Leo Fitzpatrick, Cara Seymour, Dane DeHaan
» See full cast & crew
Jack & Diane Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, January 22, 2013
There's a great Q&A with David Lynch where he says that "cinema is a language that can speak abstractions...cinema can say these difficult-to-say-in- words things." I think this is true—in much the same way that music can speak abstractions—but the operative word is can. Cinema doesn't always need to work on the plane of intuitive, unspoken metaphor, and it also seems to me that one mark of a lesser—or more pretentious— filmmaker is to turn easy-to-say-in-words things into unnecessary abstractions. That is, to overcomplicate the obvious, to say less with more.
Case in point: writer/director Bradley Rust Gray's Jack & Diane, a teenaged love-slash-horror story that needlessly tries to represent the animalism of pubescent attraction through heavy-handed symbolism. In Gray's film, young love is quite literally a monster—a wolfish, misshapen blood beast—and this really only serves as a distraction. Take away the horror movie accoutrements—and they could definitely be excised with little damage to the plot—and you're left with a rather mundane indie romance, all fumbling teenaged sexual awkwardness and stilted dialogue.
I should probably say up front that Jack & Diane has nothing to do with the John "Cougar" Mellencamp song of the same name, besides both being centrally about teenagers in love. Here, Diane (Juno Temple) is a willowy Brit from Washington D.C. who wears frilly baby-doll dresses and seems to float through the world fairy-like, only half-aware of her surroundings. She's soon to be leaving for fashion school in France, but en route she stops to stay for two weeks in Manhattan with her aunt Linda (Cara Seymour), a harried nurse. Diane loses her cellphone on the first day of the trip, and while looking for a place to make a call to her twin sister, she stumbles into a boutique where she meets Jack (Riley Keough, Elvis' granddaughter), a tough, skateboarding lesbian who idolizes her dead older brother and carries around a yellow Sony Walkman with a mixtape of the Flying Picket's a cappella cover of "Only You" on repeat.
The two girls are instantly smitten, and the more experienced Jack sneaks them into a club, where they make-out and spend quite a bit of time mumbling to one another semi-indecipherably under the thumping music. The film actually opens with this club scene in a flash-forward; the nosebleed-prone Diane goes to the restroom to clean up the bloody mess on her upper lip, but when she looks in the mirror, she's confronted by a reflection of the aforementioned monster—hairy, wild, disfigured, screeching—before promptly passing out.
The beast is Gray's way of making the power of Diane's emotions externally tangible—young love as an out-of-control thing that's unexpectedly unleashed—but he also takes us within Diane, with stop motion sequences that show hair sprouting from or slithering through her fleshy, mucous-y body cavities. Gray commissioned the famous Quay Brothers (The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes) to animate these gross- out bits, which seem to function as an illustration of how Diane's love for Jack is growing inside her.
They might've been genuinely impressive in another context, but in the film, both the stop-motion scenes and the monster seem like crutches; you wish Gray would drop them and let the narrative walk on its own. The beast, especially, is overkill. It shows up in three or four scenes—as a boogeyman in a dark storage locker, or a mutant leg that furiously kicks over a lamp when Diane is masturbating—but it never figures into the plot in such a way that it's essential. This seems somewhat unfair to viewers, in different ways depending on how much one knows about the story going in. The trailer makes no real mention of the horror aspects, so it'll be shocking for those expecting a simple romance, but those who've heard that Jack & Diane is some sort of gory lesbian lycanthrope movie will be even more disappointed by the perfunctoriness of the horror elements.
I do appreciate that Jack & Diane is a lesbian love story that doesn't make the sexuality of the characters somehow exceptional. Their gayness is normalized and nonchalant—this is a very recent shift, particularly in American cinema—and Gray definitely gets across the universal thrill of that first, life-altering crush. The small touches. The intoxication and expectations. The romantic hyperbole. The weight and importance of every shared word. We all know the feeling.
But the film loses that electricity as it moves into the second act's series of slight and uninteresting conflicts. Jack acts like a jerk when she learns that Diane is moving to Paris. Linda gets fed up with the two on-again-off-again lovebirds taking over her apartment. There's some manufactured drama involving Diane's sister and a rape-y sex tape. It's slice-of-life, fling-with-a-stranger-on-summer-vacation stuff, but it just doesn't amount to much. Besides that, between Gray's mumblecore dialogue—lots of "uhs" and "ums" and protracted silence—and the wilted, too-cool-for-school performances of the two leads, there's a lot of intentional awkwardness in the film that just doesn't play well. You start to look forward to appearances by the lust goblin—or whatever it—if only for a break in the routine.
Jack & Diane Blu-ray, Video Quality
While most small-budget indie movies nowadays are shot digitally, Jack & Diane is a defiantly 35mm production, and I think the natural filmic look does work in the story's favor. Magnolia's Blu-ray release keeps the grain intact with a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that seems mostly true to source and intention. There's no digital noise reduction, edge enhancement, or overt compression issues here, although I did notice what I can only describe as a slight strobing of horizontal lines in some of the stop-motion sequences. I'm not sure what might've caused this, but it's not pervasive or overly distracting. While the picture isn't always extremely sharp—probably due to fast film stock and lenses used—it does yield a decent level of high definition clarity, with good facial and clothing textures in closeup. (See Diane's outfits, in particular.) The color grading goes for a largely realistic look; saturation and contrast are balanced, skin tones seem consistent, and black levels rarely endanger shadow detail. I wouldn't say this is a wowing transfer, but it suits the film just fine.
Jack & Diane Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Jack & Diane features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that more than adequately handles the film's limited sound requirements. This is a mostly quiet, talky film, and dialogue—most importantly—is always balanced and easily understood. (Even if there are a few scenes where the use of lavaliere mics results in a slightly artificial quality to the conversations. That is, they sound recorded, and not like we just happen to be overhearing them on the street.) Moderate use is made of the surround channels, which put out low-level ambience in most scenes— New York street noise, night club music and chatter, thunder—along with the occasional directional effect when necessary. The real highlight to the mix is the film's score, by the Icelandic band múm—yes, uncapitalized, e.e. cummings-style—who make twinkly electronics-augmented bedtime music, with pitter-pattering beats and saw-bow quivering and soft synths. The cues sound great here, spread throughout all 5.1 channels. The disc includes optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
Jack & Diane Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Jack & Diane Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Jack & Diane's premise is killer—A first crush horror movie with creepy stop-motion animation by the Quay Brothers and a soundtrack from múm? Count me in!—but writer/director Bradley Rust Gray's execution is unfortunately off. The film would've worked better had he either ditched the monster movie elements entirely or else done something more impactful with them. As it stands, the story is a weird and unsuccessful hodgepodge of genres, part Cronenbergian body horror freakout and part slush pile reject from a gay film festival. If you're still buy-curious, I'd skip the Blu-ray and wait for the film to show up streaming on Netflix or elsewhere.
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Jack & Diane Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Jack & Diane Blu-ray - October 31, 2012
Magnolia Pictures will release on Blu-ray director Bradley Rust Gray's Jack & Diane (2012), starring Juno Temple, Kylie Minogue, Riley Keough, and Leo Fitzpatrick. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the nation on January 8th ...
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