Upon viewing Jack
& Diane, it quickly becomes obvious that it’s neither of those things. Yes,
Jack (Riley Keough) and Diane (Juno Temple) are young lesbian lovers. However,
the way their relationship is handled, the film doesn’t require the “lesbian
film” tag any more than, for example, The
Notebook would need to be labeled “heterosexual film.” The orientation of
the title characters is more or less incidental to the proceedings. This isn’t
a “coming out” film, à la The Incredibly
True Adventure of Two Girls in Love, as no one so much as bats an eye at the
As for the “werewolf” element, for one thing it’s not even an
actual werewolf. Diane hallucinates and/or dreams of herself as a misshapen beast.
While symbolic of the teen’s increasing sexual appetite, there is no literal
monster in this film. Anyone expecting straightforward horror elements is bound
to be disappointed. The admittedly quite frightening monstrosity only rears its
disfigured head a few times. More often we see the bizarre internal manifestation
of Diane’s raging hormones, with stop-motion animated hair tangled around
tendons and arteries. It’s visually interesting and adds a Cronenberg-esque queasiness
to the otherwise realistic drama.
The film opens with Diane, briefly staying with her aunt in New York before leaving for higher education in France, wandering into a shop hoping to use a phone. There she meets Jack, a worldlier teen around her age, and they bond almost immediately. From that point on, they enjoy a very brief relationship, one that manages to be on-again, off-again during a short time span. There isn’t much to the plot. In fact, I found myself wondering where it was all headed for most of the running time before I realized the answer was pretty much nowhere. That might seem like a criticism, but it shouldn’t be taken as such. Jack & Diane is a collection of small, subtle moments. The film’s atmosphere and deliberate pacing becomes hypnotic over time. I’ll be quite honest and admit that while I watched, I didn’t think I liked it. Once it ended, I wanted to watch it all over again.
Much of that is due to the quality of the central
performances. This is a two-woman show all the way, despite the presence of
Kylie Minogue in a supporting role so inconsequential it could’ve been excised
without adverse effect to the film. Keough, the drop-dead stunning daughter of
Lisa Marie Presley, has been remarkably de-glammed to portray the tomboyish
Jack. In fact, due to Jack being struck by a taxi while bicycling early on, she’s
saddled with unflattering scabs across her face for most of the movie. Her work
is incredibly naturalistic, initially displaying Jack’s outward confidence but eventually
revealing her inner vulnerability. Temple is equally mesmerizing as the far
more girlish Diane. She manages to make Diane’s staggering naivety entirely
believable. She and Jack aren’t really in love—they don’t have enough time
together for that—but they believe they are. So passionate are Keough and
Temple in their roles, they make the viewer believe it too.
It has been argued that the horror elements are not effectively woven into the story, but I think they add a distinctive touch of surrealism that subtly counterbalances the fly-on-the-wall realism. A subplot involving Diane’s twin sister feels a bit like deadweight, never truly naturally meshing even though it does play a significant (and surprising) role in the arc of Jack and Diane’s relationship. See it for the performances of its two young stars and the sometimes unsettling vibe that director Gray infuses throughout his simple story.
Jack & Diane was shot on 35mm film and the 1080p transfer retains a film-like appearance. Clarity is strong throughout, nicely representing Anne Misawa’s cinematography. Much of the film has a nearly documentary look to it. As a result the visuals are sometimes kind of plain. But that’s not a knock against the transfer, which boasts deep, solid blacks and often vivid colors. The high definition presentation delivers throughout.
That goes for the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, which makes
great use of silence, particularly during the monster scenes when sudden
surround effects snap the trance-like quiet. The score by múm is one of the
most unique I’ve heard recently. The ambient music is placed unpredictably
within the surround spectrum, providing easily the most consistently
interesting rear speaker elements. My one caveat while praising the audio is
that occasionally the mumbled dialogue could’ve used a boost during noisier
Unfortunately there’s very little supplemental material. I would’ve been interested in a Bradley Rust Gray commentary track, but for whatever reasons it wasn’t to be. The most substantial extra is a ten-minute featurette with the creator of Diane’s beastly alter ego. It does provide a detailed look at the intricately designed monster, only glimpsed in shadows in the finished film. There’s also a five-minute promo piece that includes the usual mix of film and interview clips. And that’s all she wrote.
While it may be a little too low-key for many viewers, this tender exploration of young lust is worth seeking out. Riley Keough and Juno Temple make Jack & Diane (which bears no connection to the famed John Mellencamp hit of the same name) a hypnotic viewing experience.