THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"JACK & DIANE"
Jack & Diane has nothing whatsoever to do with the John Cougar Mellencamp song with which it shares a title. Set mostly in Brooklyn, it is the story of Diane (Juno Temple), a naive Australian teenager staying with her aunt Linda (Cara Seymour) for the summer. One day, she meets Jack (Riley Keough), a brooding, androgynous young woman to whom she feels an instant attraction. The two become deeply infatuated with each other. Linda doesn't approve, partially because she doesn't like Jack's forwardness, and partially because Diane is soon scheduled to leave for school in France. The girls' romance experiences multiple ups and downs over the course of a few weeks.
This is a deeply, terminally odd film. Much of its running time is spent showing the two leads gazing at one another. If you took out all the longing glances and awkward conversations they have, the movie would be an hour shorter than it is. When they aren't eyeballing each other, the characters are engaging in really strange behavior that does little to develop our understanding of their attraction. They Photoshop their faces onto pornographic pictures. They stand on a street corner, having a contest to see who can keep a fireball in her mouth the longest. Jack shaves Diane's private parts. (Oh, settle down!) There isn't a lot of substantive conversation in these sequences. The dialogue is uncommonly hollow; words come out of the actresses' mouths, yet they don't seem to actually mean anything. For this reason, it becomes really difficult to understand why Jack and Diane are so into each other, or why we should be into them.
Periodically, Jack & Diane throws in cheesy stop-motion animated shots of hair wrapping around someone's – or something's - internal organs. Diane additionally has a couple of grisly dreams about a werewolf attacking people. What do these things mean? They certainly aren't explained or given any sort of payoff. Perhaps writer/director Bradley Rust Gray was trying to suggest Diane's fear of sexual awakening, or maybe even the frightening newness of entering a same-sex relationship. If he was, these elements are counterproductive. The graphic nature of them feels more like something out a horror movie, so they don't exactly encourage us to be optimistic about Diane's feelings for Jack.
So much of this movie is rambling and incoherent. The only thing I really liked was Riley Keough (who, in case you didn't know, is the granddaughter of Elvis Presley). This is the third film I've seen her in this year, following The Good Doctor and Magic Mike. She disappears into character every time and has undeniable screen presence. But even her talents aren't enough to keep Jack & Diane afloat. Between the interminable, one-dimensional infatuation scenes and the incomprehensible horror stuff, I grew exasperated. What could have been an appealing, offbeat romance is instead little more than Twilight for the arthouse crowd.
( out of four)
Jack & Diane is rated R for strong sexual content including nudity and an assault, bloody violence, language and drinking - all involving teens. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.
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