' Cinema Romantico: Jack & Diane

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jack & Diane

Today is the birthday of my dearly beloved Kylie Minogue and to celebrate I thought, What better way than to watch and review her latest foray into acting?! No, not the shape-shifting, mind-bending "Holy Motors", which I generally liked, but her less seen, less reviewed, less liked "Jack & Diane." And, readers, I have a sad turn of events to report...

Wait, is Kylie strung out?
Kylie Minogue is barely in this movie. She's in one scene. That's it. And she's barely even in that scene. Don't get me wrong, she's kind of a badass in that one scene even though she doesn't really get to do much of anything. In fact, because she doesn't get to do much of anything you can sense her thinking: "Well then, screw it. I'm costuming the shit outta this scene." So she covers her arms in these bodacious black tats and makes a mess - albeit, an elegant mess (she's Kylie Minogue!!!) - of her hair and kind of postures herself as a metalhead. Oh, she is also Jack's teacher in the ways of love (and when I say love, I mean lust and sex). Except that Jack, as the name implies, isn't a boy. Jack's a girl, played by Riley Keough. (Riley Keough is also the daughter of Lisa Marie Presley which means she is the granddaughter of one Elvis Presley which means that Kylie briefly makes out with the kin of Elvis which just seems right. Yes? No? Have I scared you off?)

This is to say that Bradley Rust Gray's "Jack and Diane" is not an all-American Midwestern romance but the first flush of infatuation between two girls in NYC, one experienced - Jack - and one not so much - Diane. Diane is played by Juno Temple and, I have to say, Ms. Temple has got the market cornered on youthful naïve sort-of waifs. Between her exemplary work here and as whimsical trailer trash in "Killer Joe", she gave two of the most slam-bang, strangely comedic performances in 2012. She plays the whole movie wide-eyed, as if she was just teleported in from a different era to a place she barely grasps.

Diane: "You just think you're the cat's pajamas, don't you?"
Jack: "What the fuck's that supposed to mean?"

"Jack & Diane" is admittedly weird, but also weirdly affecting. It is slow - often times too slow - but chock full of mood and atmosphere, occasionally breathlessly so, evoking a Mumblecore movie with a more significant budget and an experienced cinematographer (and Kylie Minogue). At its core, it is the simplest of stories - two girls falling in love/lust over the course of a week and not quite knowing how to deal with it. They long for one another. They make mix tapes. They get mad at one another. Diane says they should break up. Jack says they were not even together. They get back together even though they were not together. Diane's mother is freaked out by the whole situation. She tells Jack that Diane is going to art school in Paris at the end of the week.


Gray, however, in one of the oddest directing decisions I can recall, decides to add a subplot involving Diane's transformation into a werewolf, though we rarely glimpse her in werewolvian makeup. Naturally this is how the movie was marketed - lesbians and werewolves! - but this werewolf business is barely there. It hardly factors into the story in a tangible sense, instead allowing for yucky intercuts of (I guess?) the werewolf lurking within and heavy-handed subtext about the beastly nature of her sexual kindling. Perhaps with a much more assured hand this would not have felt completely forced and frustratingly unnecessary, but without this eye-rolling teenage dream symbolism (and with some other edits) "Jack and Diane" would have been shorter and packed with much more intensity.

Really, it's a maddening movie, the sort of movie that seems to be trying to figure itself out as it goes along, mirroring Diane's plight in ways her second life as a werewolf can't replicate. The first half-hour, for instance, in which Diane wanders the streets in a daze, nose bleeding and vomiting into alleys, helplessly trying to find a phone, and Meeting Cute with Jack who takes her to a club where she looks like an out-of-place "Star Trek" alien is so maddening, in fact, that you might get distracted and consider turning it off. And then...

They kiss. And it is one of the most moving first kisses you will ever glimpse in a film, sweet but charged, heightened but intimate. The movie was about to lose you and then it found you. And it will lose you again. And then it will find you again. Over and over. It's highs and lows, it's what it means to be young, it's teenage romance, it's......

I can't function. I can't think. It's too much.  

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