Joshua Reviews Bradley Rust Gray’s Jack And Diane [Theatrical Review]

Falling in love for the first time can be quite an interesting life event. Just ask the leads of director Bradley Rust Gray’s latest feature film, a romance drama entitled Jack And Diane.

Set in New York City, Jack And Diane tells the story of, well, Jack and Diane, two young teenage girls who meet one evening, only to fall for one another. However instant their connection was though, the pair instantly face a test as it is revealed that the latter will be leaving the city. As we slowly discover that this new love has brought on quite a change in Diane, manifested in various physical issues that arise, and the pair must try to make this into a far longer lasting relationship than anything either expected that fateful night when the brooding Jack laid her eyes upon the blonde baby doll dress wearing Diane.

That interesting premise, however, as well as its superb cast, deserve a far greater film.

Led by Juno Temple (Diane) and Riley Keough (Jack) the film’s cast is ultimately outdone by a devastatingly stilted screenplay. Never allowing for the chemistry between the two to be fully realized or turn into anything more than implied connection, the film’s main relationship and thus its main dramatic core feels flat and lifeless. Both stars feel as though they are simply running through lines, giving off little to no charisma, particularly Keough, who feels absolutely lifeless here. There are solid moments, particularly near the opening of the film, where both performances feel as though there is something going on behind the eyes of the actresses here, but never anything more than a fleeting glimpse of something truly special. Temple is also disappointing here, giving off one of her weaker performances, which is upsetting as the star has been on a tear as of late with films like the underrated Kaboom.

In the works for nearly half a decade now (the film was originally tapped to star Olivia Thirlby and Ellen Page in the ultimate bit of what-if casting), director Bradley Rust Gray follows up his shockingly superb The Exploding Girl with a startlingly life-less bit of direction. Ultimately as lifeless a bit of direction as it is a bit of performance art, Gray’s film does feature a handful of flights of fancy, particularly in what is discovered as something of a supernatural aspect of the narrative, which does ultimately add some sense of vitality to the picture. However, his script lays limp on the screen, and never quite breathes vigor into what is an inherently intriguing bit of romantic drama.

After playing the festival circuit earlier this year, the film is finally arriving in theaters this weekend, and should make for a bit of counter programming for those looking outside of the horror film world for their weekend entertainment. A mediocre romantic picture, the film’s fleeting flights of fancy don’t quite save a film featuring two lifeless performances and a director who doesn’t give them the chance to try and catch their breath.

Joshua Brunsting

Josh is a critic, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, a wrestling nerd, a hip-hop head, a father, a cinephile and a man looking to make his stamp on the world, one word at a time.

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