Saturday, March 31, 2012

Janie Jones: Movie Review

 

A subtle father-daughter story told with quiet undertones.

Janie Jones (Abigail Breslin), a 13 year-old girl is with her mother and they are off to meet her father. Except her mother (Elisabeth Shue) is a whore-like drug- addicted loser who’s abandoning her daughter. And her father (Alessandro Nivola) is a fading rock-and-roll star who has no idea he has a daughter, let alone any intention of being a father to one. “Janie Jones” the film and each of the characters pick all the right notes.2010 (with 2012 DVD release)

Directed by: David M. Rosenthal

Screenplay by: David M. Rosenthal

Starring: Abigail Breslin and Alessandro Nivola

It’s a fairly subtle drama about a young girl who doesn’t want to be left on her own but knows how to take care of herself; and a father who doesn’t seem to have the first clue about how to take care of himself, but with the arrival of Janie, he might try for her sake. Similar movies have been done before, but this one is a bit more subtle in their actions even if the plot points are the same. I whole-heartedly enjoyed each of the choices they made to the move the film along.

Ethan, the father, is a rock singer desperate to cling on to the notoriety that comes with being a band leader. As you can guess, his career isn’t going so well. One of the excellent elements of the film was choosing softer, folk songs when he’s actually playing music for us, or for his daughter. And, even better, it really is Nivola playing the guitar. A talented musician, he was in bands throughout high school and university.

More excellent choices were made in the casting and characterizations. Brittany Snow has managed to stay just in the shadows of the Hollywood spotlight her whole career despite her cute, blonde looks. I’m assuming that has something do with the fact that even though she is a cute blonde, either her characters have had a dark side or the films have had a dark side. I’ve always admired that about her. This marks the first time she’s not playing a teenager. And her character, named Iris, who appears to be a whore-like drug-addicted loser on the arm of Ethan, isn’t exactly as she appears to be. Frank Whaley, playing Ethan’s band-mate, steals the few scenes he’s in by adding some touching comedy to the drama.

Nivola and Breslin are the stars and despite their age and background differences, they never went over-the-top around each other. They both played their characters with the subtlety required. The scenes of just the two of them were cute but never showy; they held our hearts the whole way. I’ve always loved Nivola and have appreciated everything he has done. Breslin has made the right choice by returning to her indie roots, showing how she has matured and keeping the comedy in check.

“Janie Jones” has flown under the radar, I’m assuming because it has chosen quieter tones, but they are the right ones.









Recommended:

Somewhere (2010) - A father-daughter story in a beautiful, indescribable place.

Laurel Canyon (2002) - A clash of music, cultures, families and sexual orientations.

$5 a Day (2009) - A father-son road trip with hilarious cons and schemes and touching honesty.