Title: Jack and Diane
Director: Bradley Rust Gray (‘The Exploding Girl’)
Starring: Riley Keough (‘Magic Mike’), Juno Temple (‘The Dark Knight Rises’), Cara Seymour (‘Adaptation,’ ‘Gangs of New York’) and Kylie Minogue
Creating enthralling, unique coming-of-age romance films involving teenagers experimenting with new found emotions can pose a challenge to many writer-directors. The new romance drama ‘Jack and Diane,’ which is now playing in select theaters, not only aims to showcase the startling, emerging feelings between the two title characters, but also aspires to incorporate unexpected elements of horror. While the two well-cast main actresses in the movie emotionally show the struggles of their characters, the inclusion of the horror subplot unfortunately takes away from the otherwise intriguing story.
‘Jack and Diane’ follows tomboy Jack (played by Riley Keough) and the outgoing Diane (portrayed by Juno Temple), as they meet and fall in love over the summer in New York City. But Jack’s tough personality and Diane’s reserved innocence and hesitance over starting a romantic relationship with another girl doesn’t prepare either one for the ever growing feelings the two are developing for each other. When Diane finally reveals to Jack that her Aunt Linda (played by Cara Seymour) is sending her to Paris at the end of the summer for a school program, Jack begins to push her away. As Diane struggles to maintain their growing relationship, despite her aunt’s objections over their romance, Diane tries to conceal from Jack the dark and violent visions she’s been having of transforming into a werewolf.
Bradley Rust Gray, who both wrote and directed the horror romance drama, featured a genuine insight into the confusing and complicated romantic feelings teenagers experience as they try to navigate high school love. The title characters’ continuously conflicting emotions are intriguingly balanced between Jack’s pursuit of Diane and the latter’s subtle, but ever-growing, trust in her new girlfriend. Just when Gray tricks audiences into believing the two girls have found security with each other, he included another unexpected twist to keep them apart, from Diane’s school trip to Paris to Jack’s unwillingness to fight to make their long-distance relationship work.
Keough and Temple were well cast as the two shockingly diverse title characters, as they try to navigate and understand their instant attraction to each other. The two lead actresses understood and perfectly portrayed Gray’s realistic characters. Keough balanced Jack’s determination to go after what she wants with Temple’s portrayal of Diane being initially reluctant to challenge her family and embark on a relationship she does truly want to pursue.
Despite the stimulating romantic interest between the two title characters, ‘Jack and Diane’ unfortunately loses sight of telling its important message of first true love with the werewolf sub-plot. Gray daringly tried to combine the two completely different genres of romance and horror with Diane’s startling dreams of turning into a werewolf and killing Jack, but unfortunately, the two diverse stories did little to connect with each other. While the developing werewolf-vampire love story in ‘Underworld’ was one of the major motivating factors in the action fantasy thriller, the secondary werewolf plot point in ‘Jack and Diane’ was completely unnecessary, and failed to take any inspiration from the latter film. While Diane’s dreams did symbolize her fear of ruining her blossoming relationship with Jack, there was really no need for Gray to include the horror element in the film. The werewolf element was so fleeting and overlooked that it just seems to be a gimmick to broaden the scope of the film’s appeal to more audiences.
‘Jack and Diane’ took a daring look into the daunting beginning stages of a relationship often times considered to be taboo. With the well-cast Keough and Temple showing their characters’ emotional struggles, accepting the other’s completely different personality while learning to embrace their relationship, the film gives an insightful look into modern-day teen romance. Unfortunately, the unnecessary werewolf sub-plot, which tried to show the complex nature of the romantic relationship between the two title characters, took away from the overall intense emotional nature of the film.
Written by: Karen Benardello