Jasper Jones (Rachel Perkins, 2017) wr. Shaun Grant from novel by Craig Silvey, prod. David Jowsey, Vincent Sheehan; Hugo Weaving, Matt Nable, Myles Pollard, Dan Wyllie, Levi Miller, Aaron McGrath, Toni Collette, Angourie Rice; 1965 murder mystery; WA; release 2 March
I watched this when it was released to DVD, and there are about eleven things wrong with it.
Let's start with the ending. The kid looks out of his louvred windows at nothing in particular and some crap singer starts up with this phony C&W song about something completely unrelated and sung in that phony Nashville 'accent' that almost all Australian singers affect. Maybe the guy really is American - but it doesn't make the song, or its position in the film, any more valid.
But to get to the real point: it's the script. Everyone in the first half hour, before I stopped caring, speaks in perfect sentences, with capital letters at the beginning and fullstops at the end, and all of the sentences make everything perfectly clear: 'This is why I'm in this story and what my character is thinking and doing and feeling.' (Except of course for the Big Mysteries at the heart of The Plot - see below.)
And then there's the casting of the main character. I refer, not to Jasper Jones (what a stupid name, btw!) but to Charlie Bucktin (Bucktin? This must be that genre, what's it called: Young Adult?) This kid actor is apparently Australian, but he speaks like he's on vacation from some expensive private school in the Home Counties, with an historical Received Pronunciation.
Then there's the direction, of which there is apparently not any. Toni Collette is way over the top, while her screen husband Dan Wyllie is way under the bottom. As neither of them appear to have been given any help, they seem to have fallen back on what they do best (but in other films).
At this point, I'd like to disclose some SPOILERS, but I wasn't paying much attention by the time we got to the DISCLOSURES, so I'm not too sure about why the girl hanged herself. I assume her father interfered with her. And Jasper is the miscegenated grandson of Hugo Weaving's character, I think. But don't quote me. Hugo is only on the screen for about four minutes: one day of work for a very busy man, and he's always good, even with this [non-]director.
Is there anything good about this film? Well, nothing. ... Tho it's always a pleasure to see Igor Sas in the small parts he always reliably performs.
The cinematography and editing are ordinary, I didn't notice the music, to be honest. Pemberton is a gift from on high to film-makers, and you hardly notice a tree - which are literally high, but never shown as such.
Oh, there was some attempt on the part of the writers to get us stirred up about race - both Indigenous and Vietnamese (I think) in this case. Guys: have a look at No Worries (David Elfick, 1993) to see how subtly this topic can be handled. Your film has the little Viet guy winning the cricket (!) match by one run (!) which is more than just a tiny bit OTT. ... I hope that's another SPOILER.
Am I up to eleven? Matt Nable and Dan Wyllie are wonderful actors with the right script - not to mention Hugo Weaving, who is as good as it gets now that Olivier is dead - and they all looked really pedestrian.
So: pretty much hang your heads in shame, in my opinion. Or perhaps just: head.
Excerpts from reviews
Let me say right off, I just loved this movie. Arthouse in the very best sense of the word. Screenplay in harmony with what hits the screen. Sensitive directing complementing beautiful cinematography and music, and superb acting. The story ringing true to the end. Not an artistic compromise in sight. A lesson in love in so many shades and spades. MB, Fremantle Shipping News.
Mark Wareham’s stellar photography often lurks in dimly lit locales, providing genuine shocks and warm summer moments in equal measure. Selling this conceit [?] are the wonderful characters that populate Corrigan, each with their own concealed truths. Toni Collete’s [sic] mother character is a villain of sorts, at least from the perspective of young Charlie, but her performance (like all things in a young boy’s mind) is magnified. Similarly, Hugo Weaving looms large as Mad Jack Lionel, the ultimate small-town outsider whose legend is bigger than his tragic past. Richard Gray, thereelbits.com.
References and Links
Wikipedia article on the novel by Craig Silvey
Garry Gillard | New: 7 February, 2017 | Now: 13 July, 2017