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Janie Jones Movie Review 2

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Janie Jones Movie Review 2

Title: Janie Jones

Director: David M. Rosenthal

Starring: Abigail Breslin, Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Shue, Peter Stormare, Joel David Moore, Frances Fisher, Brittany Snow, Frank Whaley

If Abigail Breslin stars in a film these days, it’s more than likely that she is going to be playing someone that acts considerably older than her age. Since her breakout Oscar-nominated turn in Little Miss Sunshine, Breslin has made precociousness her specialty, presenting herself as equal in maturity to the adults in films as diverse in tone and genre as Definitely, Maybe and Zombieland. Breslin herself is only fifteen, and that fact only makes it slightly easier to remember that her characters are supposed to be young teenagers without a true sense of worldliness. Fortunately, like Michael Cera or Zooey Deschanel, Breslin excels at playing the same part over and over again.

In Janie Jones, Breslin stars as the titular hero, whose groupie mother Mary Ann (Elisabeth Shue) brings her to meet her rock star father Ethan (Alessandro Nivola), who doesn’t even recognize the mother of his child from their brief love affair over a decade earlier, for the first time. Mary Ann’s abandonment of her capable child leaves her in the hands of the entirely unprepared Ethan, whose initial attempts at parenting are lamentable at best. The ultimate unlikely redefinition of their relationship might be moving and sentimental if it weren’t such an obvious endpoint for this variation of a more than vaguely familiar story.

Movies about musicians tend to follow a formula, and this is no exception. Like many road movies, Janie Jones lingers for a while in the middle without much of an idea where it’s going, before abruptly changing course and resuming the trajectory required of predetermined bonding films. The characters are dynamic enough that the predictable plot dips are, for the most part, forgivable, and the actors bring them to life with appropriate energy and soul.

Nivola is an actor that doesn’t get nearly the recognition he deserves. With supporting turns ranging from maniacal (Face/Off) to quietly dramatic (Junebug) to romanticized (Coco Before Chanel), Nivola never steals a film from its other stars, but rather manages to become one of its most fluid and believable parts. As a deadbeat dad, Ethan fits the bill perfectly, and Nivola doesn’t try to temper his flaws, presenting him in his full washed-up glory, only adequately likeable, barely, to merit a second chance with his daughter. Shue would be better off with more central, challenging roles, given the impressive talent she displayed in her career two decades ago, wasted and invisible in such a miniscule appearance.

The standouts in the cast, both in unexpected parts, are Peter Stormare as Ethan’s manager Sloan and Brittany Snow as his bandmate and girlfriend Iris. Stormare ditches his woodchipper and scary smirk for constant financial and personal frustration with his unreliable singer, while Snow abandons her squeaky-clean image to play a slightly edgier young woman with an appreciation for both good and bad choices in life. With Breslin and Nivola excelling in their normative roles, it’s a treat to see other actors playing against type. The film doesn’t surprise in the same way, coming off as endearing yet entirely ordinary.

Technical: B+

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B

By Abe Fried-Tanzer

Janie Jones

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