Jack and DianeFeature Film | Bradley Rust Gray By Josh Ralske
Young Brooklyn lesbian romance meets the Brothers Quay.
Like his previous feature, The Exploding Girl, Bradley Rust Gray's Jack and Diane is a sensitive, dreamy portrayal of a young woman's self-discovery, only in this case, the dream often abruptly turns into a nightmare.
Diane (Juno Temple) is a spacey, fragile young woman visiting New York from overseas, prone to nosebleeds, and staying with her irritable aunt (Cara Seymour). Jack (Riley Keough) is a butch New Yorker, whose exterior toughness hides hurt and fear. They meet, and are quickly drawn to one another, with Diane kind of dazedly falling into Jack's hipster orbit. Jack has a bad bicycle accident that leaves her face scarred. The two grow closer until Jack learns that Diane is going to Paris for boarding school in a couple of weeks. Feeling betrayed and abandoned, she turns cold.
Gray takes a pleasantly low-key, well-observed character study, and splices in some jarring elements, including some wonderfully disturbing animation by the Brothers Quay, and a bizarre, flesh-eating reptilian creature that appears sporadically. The creature is kind of ridiculous, like something caused by nuclear testing in a 1960s monster movie, and when it first appears, we immediately think this isn't the expected indie lesbian drama. And then it turns into just that, which is kind of a relief, but also a bit disorienting. When that animation pops up, insectoid and featuring hair wrapping around bone, it's also jarring. Gray has said that through these obtrusive genre elements he meant to capture the kind of terror that can underlie young love. There's nothing wrong with mixing genres, of course, but tonally, these shifts are so abrupt and feel so extraneous to the main emotional pull of the film, that as well-executed as the animation is, it mostly feels completely out of place. In fact, the contrast of the darkness of the animation and blood to Temple's flighty, dreamy performance amplifies what might have been a less noticeable kewpie-doll-like aspect to her work.
One almost wishes that Gray had taken his metaphorical interest in the pain and fear of first love a step further and just made a flat-out horror film, with its thematic concerns presented on a subtextual level. That would have been more seamless. This movie, like that creature, has some seams showing, but it also has a strong, naturalistic performance from Keough, and it is fairly affecting, despite its flaws. And then, as with that animation, even its missteps are kind of fascinating.
|Jack and Diane Trailer|