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Imagine a teenage lesbian love story directed by David Cronenberg and you’ll have some sense of the weirdness of Jack and Diane. Bradley Rust Gray’s attempt to weave horror elements into a fairly conventional narrative yields diminishing returns in this overly stylized effort receiving its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The title characters — not to be confused with the subjects of John Mellencamp’s hit tune — are Diane (Juno Temple), a waif-like British teen spending the summer in New York City with her no-nonsense aunt (Cara Seymour), and Jack (Riley Keough), a tomboyish local with whom she forms an instant attraction.
The romance encounters various roadblocks, although their respective inarticulateness is less a problem for them than for bored viewers. Rather, it’s that both seem to be emotionally damaged, which results in bizarre physical manifestations. Diane suffers from a series of torrential nosebleeds and has a habit of turning into a fearsome, werewolf-like monster. Both traits eventually transmute to Jack, who also suffers severe cuts to her face when she’s hit by a cab while bicycle riding.
Gray throws some half-hearted comic relief into the mix, such as Diane’s gagging when fed Jack’s favorite snack of sushi with ketchup, and her disastrous attempt to shave her pubic area which, judging by the amount of shaving cream she uses, apparently forms most of her body.
But the animated opening credits and intertitles and bizarre creature manifestations signal that the filmmaker is going for something deeper and more phantasmagorical. While these sequences superbly created by the Quay Brothers are certainly visually arresting, they’re neither scary enough to interest horror fans nor sufficiently symbolically resonant to give the film the depth to which it obviously aspires.
The young leads fulfill their roles perfectly, with Temple effortlessly projecting adolescent anxiety and Keough displaying real charisma as her tough-talking butch lover. But their striking efforts are not enough to lift this languidly paced, pretentious effort above the level of bizarre curiosity.
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Magnolia Pictures)
Production: Deerjen Films, RCR Media Group
Cast: Juno Temple, Riley Keough, Cara Seymour, Kylie Minogue, Dane DeHaan, Michael Chernus
Director/screenwriter: Bradley Rust Gray
Producers: Jen Gatien, Karin Chien, So Young Kim, Bradley Rust Gray
Executive producers: Ricardo Costa Reis, Rui Costa Reis, Eliad Josephson, Leonardo Guerra Seragnoli, Riaz Tyab
Director of photography: Anne Misawa
Editors: Bradley Rust Gray, So Yong Kim
Production: Chris Trujilo
Costume design: Audrey Louise Reynolds
No rating, 110 min.
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