Tribeca Film Festival ‘11: Janie Jones Review
Janie Jones tells the story of Janie (Abigail Breslin), a 13-year-old girl abandoned by her drug-addicted mother (Elizabeth Shue) and left to be with her new found father (Alessandro Nikola) while traveling with his indie rock band. You know what’s going to happen. He’ll be extremely reluctant at first, but they will get to know each other and become a perfect picture of father and daughter. There is nothing new to this, but as in all stories, it’s not really the plot, it’s about how the characters get there.
Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) is really coming into her own and is able to convincingly portray a very resourceful but innocent young girl. Her character uses music to deal with her emotions and the voice you hear singing is Abigail herself, who happened to start voice lessons just a few weeks before getting the role. Abigail is very good at turning on the tears, and at some moments, it began to seem fake with how easy it was. I think she really needs to limit the tears for maximum effectiveness.
Alessandro Nikola (Face/Off) as Ethan Brand is quite superb at capturing the narcissistic and self-destructive fading rock star. He could have came off as just being a complete jerk, but he manages to play it in a way that you could see someone react. Ethan’s world is being turned upside-down and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to drink and start fights.
The supporting cast is quite phenomenal. First-off, you have Elizabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas) as the fragile deadbeat drug-addict mom. You almost have to give her credit for not keeping her daughter. You can see she cares for her daughter, but just can’t shake her addiction. On tour with Ethan are: Brittany Snow (Hairspray), Frank Whaley (Pulp Fiction), Joel Moore (Avatar) and the always fantastic Peter Stormare (Fargo). Even with the limited dialogue of these characters, they really manage to help build the world of life on the road. People that travel together become family, and not in the cheesy happy sense. They know each other’s secrets and form bonds as time goes by even if they don’t really like one another. Writer/Director David M. Rosenthal manages to recreate a world that is often portrayed as glamorous and instead shows it’s dark side.
The camera style is mostly traditional, but there were some handheld moments that really threw me off. I can see how it was meant to give certain scenes an “outsider” viewpoint, but I found it to be distracting and unnecessary.
I’m happy that the music was written for the film and for each character specifically. Janie’s music seemed to be a little old for her age at times, but ultimately, it worked. Songwriter Gemma Hayes created the music for Janie and Eef Barzelay of Clem Snide scored the film and wrote all of Ethan’s songs. I’m not a big fan of songs in movies, but I was able to enjoy these because they didn’t go over-the-top and didn’t have that American Idol vibe.
I can see this film doing moderately well because of it’s mainstream appeal of the cast and music. Although the plot is predictable, it’s got enough turns to keep you interested and root for their relationship.
Rating: Sweet and entertaining. (7/10)