No, Janie Jones isn’t a movie about the insane life of 60s pop singer Marion Mitchell, as the title would have you Clash fans believe. Rather, ’tis a tale about an estranged father and his daughter meeting for the first time. The film is written and directed by David M. Rosenthal, and stars Alessandro Nivola, and one of the youngest actresses to earn an Oscar nomination, Abigail Breslin. This film is dedicated to Rosenthal’s daughter Julia, who inspired him to write Janie Jones on account of meeting her for the first time when he was 30 and she was 11.
The film is a lot like Sofia Coppola‘s Somewhere in that the child acts like the parent and the parent acts like the child. Janie Jones feels like portrait, a window into the lives of two strangers who get to know each other. And believe it or not, “Janie Jones,” the song, and Janie Jones, the movie, do share some common ground – both are rooted in that rock environment, except here, the lead singer is a washed up indie rock star.
- Directed by: David M. Rosenthal
- Written by: David M. Rosenthal
- Cast: Abigail Breslin, Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Shue
- Cinematography by: Anastas N. Michos
- Original Music by: Gemma Hayes
Janie Jones is a 13 year old girl who is dropped off with her estranged rocker father when her mother checks into rehab. At first, her father denies that the child is his, but when she reveals her musical gifts, their connection is far deeper than they realized.
- Abigail Breslin: Janie Jones isn’t your typical teenager. She’s suffered through life with a junkie mother and an absent father, and as a result has had to grow up a lot faster. This is foreign territory for Breslin, but being the fantastic talent that she is, she gives a convincing and moving performance. She really captures that feeling of growing up too quickly, and having to act like the parent. Breslin proves she’s not only an excellent actress, but also a good singer and guitar player. She’s so young yet so hard-working and that’s worthy of admiration and praise.
- Alessandro Nivola: Ethan is a hard-drinking, fading rock star who’s too stuck in his own ways. He’s the kind of person that drives people away. Nivola embodied that narcissistic indie rock star all too well. He was so infuriating and hateful, but all of those things are evidence that Nivola portrayed the character right.
- Documentary Style: A lot of the film is spent on the road or inside dingy bars. The hand-held camera works well in the scenes when the band is performing because it adds a feeling of chaos that’s proper when you’re trying to showcase Ethan’s world. His life is in shambles and you can really get a feel for that because of the shaky camera.
- The Opening: The introduction is a series of images that switch between Janie Jones and her mother traveling down an open road, and Ethan getting ready to go onstage at a small venue. The cross-cutting between both settings is really effective and serves as an entry into the rest of the movie.
- A Portrait: Like Somewhere, Janie Jones felt like a portrait of a relationship between a father and his daughter. There are no flashbacks in this movie. Anything from the past is mentioned through dialogue. It’s no necessary to see Ethan’s life before Janie because everything is right there. The focus of this movie is in the present, not in the past.
- Music As A Trigger: The story here is about a father and his daughter meeting for the first time and then connecting through music. And this is exactly what happens. Each time that the relationship between Janie and Ethan progresses, there’s music involved. The music acts like a trigger, and each time their bond grows stronger and stronger. It was a nice touch.
- Supporting Cast: From Elisabeth Shue, who plays Janie’s junkie mother, to Peter Stormare, who plays Ethan’s manager, the supporting cast does a great job whenever they are onscreen. They play their roles well and add authenticity to this tragic story.
- Ethan’s Purpose: Ethan’s music career appears to be fading away. He’s too much of a drunk to have any real ambition. First and foremost, Janie Jones is the story about a father getting to know his daughter for the first time. Ethan’s band called it quits early in the movie, and Ethan decides to go on the road alone, with Janie, because he wants to be able to play at SXSW. Ethan says that his goal is to play at SXSW, but he never shows any true ambition. This leaves us to question his love for music. Even though the music was a nice touch to the growth of the father/daughter relationship, Ethan, himself, doesn’t seem to respect music. Three times he gets into brawls, and all while he’s playing guitar, onstage. It got to the point where it felt like he only went onstage to pick a fight.
This is a simple story told in a simple way. The focus is clear throughout the story, which is to show the bond between an estranged father and his daughter. The film isn’t too ambitious, but it’s told in a pleasant and nice way.
Janie Jones hits theaters October 28.