JANUARY 19, 2013
For all the shit people give Twilight, at least they knew what they were, and found a decent enough balance between the teen drama and the werewolf/vampire elements. Sure, there wasn't as much action as the average horror fan would like, but at least those characters' STATUS as such never got forgotten. Jack & Diane, on the other hand, is allegedly about the love between two girls in New York and how one of them is possibly a werewolf, but writer/director Bradley Gray keeps that part at bay to an insane degree, to the extent where it's almost dishonest to refer to this as a horror film.
I will have to get into spoilers here with regards to its werewolf element, so skip the next paragraph if you'd like to be surprised with how much (or little) you see the beast in this film.
So basically, it's a mystery of sorts, because both girls have the same nose bleeds and "weird" moments, so I guess we're supposed to wonder which one of them is the werewolf, kind of like that movie Nature of the Beast where one is a killer and the other a robber and we have fun trying to figure out which is which. And that would be fine, but there IS no werewolf, really. The two scenes in which it appears are dream sequences, and provide no answers - in the first, Diane dreams that she is eating Jack, and vice versa in the other. Even if we give it the benefit of the doubt and say "They're both lycanthropes", it doesn't change the fact that their appearances are confined to dream sequences, which doesn't make this a horror movie in my eyes. It'd be like saying Christmas Vacation is a softcore porn because Clark fantasizes about the girl in the pool.
However, this isn't as problematic as the fact that the romance/drama angle is completely inert. If it at least worked on that level, I could happily tell people to watch a charming teenage romance film (with random werewolf bits as a bonus), but if anything it's even more frustrating than the confused "horror" angle. When we first meet her, Juno Temple's character seems to have teleported to Earth from a strange alien planet - she's unable to ask simple questions, somehow lost her phone and her wallet, etc. It's a very jarring way to introduce a character, though I suppose Gray's trying to get across the idea that no matter what a person is like or where they came from, they are susceptible to the power of love. Fine, but then don't give that character the clichéd plot device of "Oh I forgot to tell you, I have to leave the country for a long time in a few days", because it doesn't mix well. Once we learn that, I spent a good ten minutes just trying to imagine how she got into any school in the first place, since she barely seems to be able to tie her own shoes.
Riley Keough's character is more identifiable as a human being, but not a very pleasant one. Her very hastily explained life involves an absentee mother (Gremlins 2's Haviland Morris, who appears in ONE SHOT where you can't even see her face), making money by selling Photoshopped images of her face on other bodies, and sneaking into clubs and hotels. Anyway, they meet and instantly fall in love, presumably because they're both into blood (Diane's constant nosebleeds, Jack gets hit by a taxi early on and spends the entire film with a huge scrape on her cheek and lip). They bicker a lot, suck on fireballs to settle arguments, drink lots of red colored liquids to make sure the audience says "Ah, like blood, yes!", and generally just sort of wander around in their movie for which they are the only two characters of note. Kylie Minogue appears in a single scene as what I guess is Jack's fuck buddy (like most things in this movie, it's left up to the viewer to fill in the back, and even present, story); with the exception of Temple's aunt (the film's most interesting character), everyone else is a glorified extra.
Now, there's nothing wrong with these sort of "snapshot" movies in general, but the problem here is that neither of them are very interesting. In this "moment" of their lives that the film shows us, there isn't much happening to really draw us in or care one way or the other how it all turns out. I barely even got the idea that they loved each other; the brief scenes where they're getting along and being romantic all come across as "caught up in the moment" bits, not part of a growing love or even much of an infatuation. Add in all of the padding and completely botched subplots (Diane has a twin sister who got duped into a "facial" video for a website - no one mentions it, or even the sister really, ever again) and you have a movie that can best be described as a mess; one that tries to juggle a bunch of elements and can't keep a single one of them in the air.
If for some reason you get the DVD and can't return it, skip over the feature and head directly to the special features, where there's a terrific 10 minute look at the creation/design of the werewolf creature. Not only does it give you an opportunity to actually SEE it (its appearances in the film are in underlit closeups - and can we give the "using a camera flash to briefly light up a dark room" gimmick a break?), but you see how much work Gabe Bartalos put into it across the board, including a mold of Temple's face pressed into the side like a botched Thing, which you can never actually see in the finished film. Since they could have just used a Halloween store costume considering how much of it you see in the finished film, I appreciate the effort that he put into it. They also take a few seconds here to give props to the Quay brothers, who provided some stop-motion animation to show how changing into a werewolf looks on the inside of a human body - awesome stuff that should have been used in a better movie. An EPK style behind the scenes featuring Gray and Keough and a trailer are also included; interestingly, the trailer is fairly honest about the film (read: doesn't show much werewolf, sells as indie rom-drama) where the interview them refer to it as a horror film.
Really wish I liked this one. As I wind down HMAD, I want to avoid generic DTV stuff that no one would have watched anyway, and spend more time with original sounding films like this (which DID play theatrically, though its box office take was pitiful - one of FIVE Magnolia releases that rank among the 10 lowest grossing films of 2012), but I also want them to be worth watching even if heavily flawed. This, sadly, was an almost total waste of time, saved (barely) by Keough's admirable decision to hide her looks (she's actually quite stunning normally), a practical monster you barely see, and some nice New York scenery. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
What say you?