MIFF Review: Jayne Mansfield’s Car (2012)

The latest film from Billy Bob Thornton as writer/director reteams him with co-writer Tom Epperson (with whom he wrote the excellent crime drama One False Move) and is a solid, if slightly disappointing, return.

The film, set in 1969, tells the story of a dysfunctional family in Alabama with three generations living under the same roof that must come to terms with the death of the Grandmother, who had long abandoned them to live with another family in England, and the arrival of that family who come to bury her in her in home town. A random chain of events causes both families to have to stay together in the same house and over the course of a few days leads to unlikely friendships, love affairs and dramatic revelations.

With a cast that includes Thornton, Kevin Bacon, Robert Duvall and John Hurt, it goes without saying the acting in the film is excellent. Its flaws lay in the writing and direction. The dialogue aims to capture the rich Southern poetry that Thornton wrote so perfectly and vividly in his classic debut Sling Blade, but it seems to be off a beat and the rhythm doesn’t quite ring true despite the committed performances. Thornton as a director also has a tendency to construct sequences that are supposed to be profound and move the viewer, but he doesn’t earn it and they ultimately come off as hackneyed and cliché.  Despite these weaknesses, the film has a lot of excellent moving moments and some truly hilarious black comedy.

Jayne Mansfield’s Car is a good film, just not the great one it wants to be, and ultimately works better in some of its excellent parts then as a whole.

Jayne Mansfield’s Car is screening in the 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival. Check here for screening times.

3.5 blergs
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