How entertaining? ★★★☆☆
Thought provoking? ★☆☆☆☆
15 March 2012
This article is a review of JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR.
"I hated that man for 20 years, blamed him for ruining my life," Jim Caldwell
I get huge enjoyment from the extended-family-comes-together-for-the-evening/weekend subgenre. Billy Bob Thornton co-writes, directs and stars in a pretty entertaining, but messy and forgettable dramedy about not one, but two families meeting. They share a matriarchal figure, Naomi, who has died. She was once married to Robert Duvall’s Jim Caldwell, and they had three sons and one daughter: Skip (Thornton), Jimbo (Robert Patrick), Carroll (Kevin Bacon) and Donna (Katherine LaNasa). Naomi divorced Jim, and went to England to marry Kingsley Bedford (John Hurt). This broke her American men’s hearts, as they saw Naomi once in about six years. Kingsley has children of his own: Phillip (Ray Stevenson) and Camilla (Frances O'Connor). A lot of names, and an amazing cast! They all meet for her funeral, as her widower thought it right she be buried at her original home.
It is Morrison, Alabama, 1969. The Vietnam War and draft hangs over the younger generation; a conflict contrasted morally in the film with the Second World War, by the fact that the brothers are proud to have served, though damaged by it. (The civil rights movement is barely touched upon weirdly.) There are so many unresolved character conflicts that this paragraph could turn into a catalogue. I will avoid listing; that would probably dissipate the interest in watching. All I will say is that the film is primarily about fathers and sons, and their mutual disappoints in each other. JAYNE MANSFIELD’S CAR has charm but doesn’t seem to say much of note about anything. The ending is trite and sentimental, with the oddest coda that doesn’t sit right with what precedes.