The Ballad of Jack & Rose

"Grim"

The Ballad of Jack & Rose Review


"The Ballad of Jack and Rose" concerns several strange characterswho just scream for something strange and unusual to say. But writer/directorRebecca Miller, daughter of playwright Arthur Miller, only gives them themost ordinary, mundane movie dialogue imaginable.

Miller sets her story, about an ailing father (Daniel Day-Lewis)and his teenage daughter (Camilla Belle), in and around an abandoned 1970shippie commune.

Father Jack and daughter Rose have lived an isolated life,farming and building tree forts, and have turned out rather odd.

Jack ordinarily spends a good deal of time railing againstan evil housing developer (Beau Bridges) who is looking to spoil the island.But for a change of pace, he impulsively invites his secret lover, Kathleen(Catherine Keener), and her two sons, chunky Rodney (Ryan McDonald) andthuggish Thaddius (Paul Dano) to move in. Although this new trio has notbeen raised in a commune, they're just as troubled as Jack and Rose, andtalk just as blandly.

With the setting established, Miller utterly fails to usethe physical space to explore the relationships between her characters.She shows hills, gardens, basements and skylines, and slaps together montagesset to old Bob Dylan songs: Jack and Rose pick berries, the wind blows,a caterpillar crawls, etc.

Were these peculiar characters taken out of their realisticenvironment and given more stylized and poetic things to say, Miller wouldalmost have the makings of a good stage play. Anything is better than Thaddeus'sreaction when Rose suddenly runs off to go skinny-dipping: "wild thing..."

Only Ryan McDonald as the overweight Rodney clues in onhis character's soul. He wears an ever-present orange windbreaker and useshis bookish wit to defend himself against ridicule. McDonald's sly line-readingsare funny while betraying a little of the character's misery.

The leads do not fare as well. Lovely Camilla Belle hasa delightful smiling twinkle in her eye, but her character wanders allover the map -- especially during the movie's uncertain climactic moment-- and there's little the actress can do to correct this trajectory.

To convey his character's heart disease, Day-Lewis getsto lose weight, walk with a stoop, wheeze and wear pasty makeup. It's ashow-off performance meant for awards season, and Day-Lewis doesn't quitefind the center.

Miller's previous film, "PersonalVelocity," worked on a more intimate level,staying close to its three truthful characters. Here she has tried to raisethe bar, but has missed out on the simple things.

Facts and Figures

Box Office Worldwide: $712.3 thousand

Budget: $1.5M

Production compaines: Jack and Rose Productions, IFC Productions, Initial Entertainment Group (IEG), Elevation Filmworks

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis as Jack Slavin, as Rose Slavin, as Kathleen, as Rodney, as Thaddius, as Gray, as Red Berry, as Marty Rance, as Miriam Rance


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