As the old song goes, love is a many-splendored thing. I doubt that the songwriters considered that one of those splendors might be turning into a cancerous werewolf. Well, worry not, this shortcoming has been rectified by 'Jack and Diane.' The film is your classic tale of "girl meets girl, girl falls for girl, girl turns into a werewolf out of all-consuming love for girl." It also doesn't have enough meat on its bones to support its threadbare story.
Diane (Juno Temple), is a girl alone in New York City. She's staying with her aunt Linda (Cara Seymour), but the relationship is strained. Wandering, she bumps into the boyish Jack (Riley Keough), and the two develop a fast connection that quickly becomes romantic. However, Diane isn't sure she can handle her feelings, and they begin to manifest in the form of a grisly, ghoulish werewolf. Their affair is made even harder when Jack discovers that Diane is shortly being shipped away to Paris, possibly never to return again.
'Jack and Diane' had so much promise. Temple and Keough are both intriguing actresses, and the trailer advertised new animation by the revered Brothers Quay. The end result squanders all that, instead delivering a leaden, wandering experience that can't even justify its own runtime. The animation by the Brothers Quay is minimal and unimaginative. If you didn't know it was their work, you wouldn't think twice about it. Kylie Minogue, the fourth billed actress, shows up for about three minutes and says about five words.
All of this would be okay if the main thrust of the film worked, but it doesn't. Jack and Diane are never sufficiently developed as characters, rendering their love affair dull. Temple and Keough give decent performances, but they don't develop the roles. Temple in particular has the ability to shine when given the right material, as 'Killer Joe' aptly demonstrates. Keough does a better job defining Jack, but the movie only gives us hints as to what her interior life is like.
And then there's the werewolf. This is the portion I assumed would be handled by The Brothers Quay, but in fact the production's own special effects team took those responsibilities. To their credit, the werewolf design is very unique, looking like a cancer grown out of control. The use of said werewolf, on the other hand, is the most disappointing element of the whole film. This creature is purely metaphorical, standing in for the unbridled lust that the two women spur in each other. The symbolism is obvious and poorly implemented. There is one sequence that is particularly gruesome and visceral, and could have taken the picture somewhere interesting. Instead, it's quickly revealed to be imaginary, and robs the scene of all impact.
Bradley Rust Gray's direction is inert, doing nothing to push the film forward. The scenes value mumbled and tangential dialogue over anything meaningful. However, it's not naturalistic enough to truly be fly on the wall. Also, Gray bafflingly casts some very talented actors like Dane DeHaan and then fails to utilize them in any interestingly way. In fact, other than Temple, Keough, and Seymour, no actor gets more than a few moments of screen time.
Eventually, the movie grinds to a slow halt. The great love tapers off to a dull point, with little to show for it. These characters will go on, and hopefully find something more interesting to do or say. The audience, however, will simply lament the time they spent on the film and then move on to any of the myriad selection of better movies that deal with the exact same things but with far more style and substance.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Magnolia Home Entertainment presents 'Jack and Diane' on a single-layer 25 GB Blu-ray disc with no inserts or other physical extras. The disc begins with several skippable trailers for other Magnolia releases.
'Jack and Diane' was shot on 35mm, but this AVC-encoded 1080p 1.85:1 transfer might fool you into thinking that it came from a high def source. Film grain is subtle at best and barely noticeable most of the time. The image looks quite clear, free of artifacts, mosquito noise, banding, or other image issues. The animation sequences do suffer from the appearance of lines across portions of the image, but this may be due to techniques used by the Brothers Quay. At any rate, those shots are incredibly brief and the problem does not plague the live action sequences. Color reproduction is very good, with the warm colors of Diane's outfits coming through strongly but without bleeding. Fleshtones are accurate, with Keough's paleness contrasting well with Temple's warmer tones. Speaking of contrast, that has no problems either. This is a strong transfer which only seems to suffer in the animation sequences.
'Jack and Diane' sports a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, but unless you listen really intently you'd probably mistake it for a 2.0 track. Most of the film is dialogue, which comes through clearly and without distortion. Scenes that take place in public spaces, like the streets of New York City or a throbbing nightclub, feel surprisingly devoid of life. Sticking my head up against the rear surrounds, I was able to make out the merest semblance of activity, but it's mixed so low that the rears might as well be silent. As a result, the soundstage feels far too limited. This isn't a movie that requires an aggressive 5.1 mix, but the ambient sounds are there, so I can't figure out why they'd be mixed into complete irrelevancy. If you go in expecting a mix strongly focused on the front channels, you'll be fine.
'Jack and Diane' is a film with a lot of potential. Squandered potential. The best moments revolve around an interesting creature design, but unfortunately it's used to poor effect. Riley Keough gives a strong performance, but Juno Temple feels like she's coasting. The advertised animation by The Brothers Quay amounts to mere moments of forgettable, generic work that could have been done by anyone. The disc has strong but not perfect video and underwhelming audio, and a decidedly fluffy set of extras. Unless you love boredom, there's no real reason to see 'Jack and Diane'.