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This week:
The Ballad of Jack and Rose

Filthy says:
"Shut the fuck up already."

The Ballad of Jack and Rose is the sort of horseshit that gives indie films a bad name. Actually, it gives all movies a bad name. And people named Jack and Rose, too. Or Ballad, although, if you're name is ballad you're already screwed. What a fucking pretentious turd. The self-important title tells you this overwritten, underinteresting clunker is going to be a lot like me at 4 a.m. on Easter: so full of hard-boiled eggs and Jagermeister that I puked all over my pants. Except, Jack and Rose replaces the booze and eggs with its own sense of value and replace my pants with the audience.

Daniel Day-Lewis and Camilla Bell are the title characters, a father and teen daughter living in the remains of a hippie commune on a remote island off the Eastern US coast. Beyond the title, we are warned how highly the film regards itself as soon as Day-Lewis reveals he is slowly dying on a heart condition, and big-time land developers start building box homes on the other side of the island, threatening the idyllic peace he thought he had. This signals one of the many big themic and symbolic issues that the movie brings up but doesn't do much with. Sort of like my mother casually mentioning--apropos of nothing--at Easter dinner that as a teenager I kept a bottle of Wesson under my bed. I suppose we're all supposed to discuss these things later once we've had time to digest them. But who the fuck wants to?

Detached and insulated from society, Day-Lewis and Bell have established an uncomfortably tight relationship that has them both depending heavily on the other. Knowing he is going to die, Day-Lewis brings his mainland girlfriend (Catherine Keener) and her two sons to the island. His thinking is that Bell can live in this family instead when he is gone. That goes sour, though, thanks to a lot of plot devices as awkward and thudding as the long jump at the Special Olympics.

Oh, and what do you know? As soon as Keener and her two sons move in there is a big windstorm that knocks over Bell's childhood treehouse. Get it? Her innocence will collapse because of the intrusion of these outsiders? That was the intended meaning, but what it really portends is a lifetime's worth of heavy-handed symbols you usually only see in short stories published in the Ligourian or poetry at a lesbian liberal arts college. Yeah, the treehouse is pretty fucking obvious, but not nearly as bad as the snake that is released in the house to let us know Eden has been spoiled. And neither have those hold a candle to Bell's dramatic haircut halfway through the movie.

Before we finally get to the part where Day-Lewis kicks the bucket, we're pushed through a dozen ponderous set pieces linked together with the cinematic equivalent of baling wire. There is an inevitable near-incest scene that I think was supposed to shock, but is a foregone conclusion from the outset. Otherwise, it's a good snooze interrupted by the occasionally hysterics that remind this fucking turd was supposed to have a plot.

There are plenty of good performances from the actors. I'm sure Day-Lewis fans will rave about how wonderful he is, but he mostly acts too fucking intense and humorless. the guy thinks acting is God damn brain surgery. Bell and Keener are very good, and it's a damn shame they have such underwritten indie standards to play. Besides, what the fuck is the point of a good performance in such a piece of shit? It's like saying that when the doctor accidentally killed grandpa the anesthesiologist was really good with the needles.

Blame writer-director Rebecca Miller for everything. She's made a story that has nothing to do with the characters but everything about her and how fucking impressed she is with her tired ideas. She pours wordy, early Bob Dylan tracks all over the movie like an unsupervised six-year old putting syrup on his pancakes. She belabors the simpleness she wants to convey with tacky and showy camera tricks. Slo Mo, a psychedelic freak-out scene, hyper-extended single camera shots. It's all part and parcel with her trying to fabricate something important out of a very weak story.

I don't know her, but watching this movie made me think of all those too-serious college students who try really fucking hard to sound important but without any real world knowledge to back up their outrage at social injustice. What she, and those kids, are pissed about is what they imagine the world is like, not how it really is. She has no concrete ideas, so she ladles on symbols and stock characters with stock emotions. When a character is unique, it's not in any organic way.

The Ballad of Jack and Rose wants to say something about the encroachment of progress onto people's lives, and she wants to say something about the way almost all the hippies have eventually sold out and become Saab and Subaru NIMBY pricks. But, she's trying to say so many big things she doesn't make sense of any of them. I'm not saying she needs to be original, but she should at least know what she wants to say. here's a hint: fuck you, you sell-out hippies. I'd rather you losers still lived in geodesic domes and promoted free love than tried to ban smoking in bars in Boulder you don't even go to.

No actions in this movie feel genuine or organic. Everyone is driven by Miller's hand to do big dramatic things, and spout big, dramatic dialogue. But none of it ever feels like it comes from the heart. So, why bother? Why making a movie if you don't have a story to tell? Don't be so fucking impressed with your own opinions.Miller's style would be better suited to pamphlets handed out before Indigo Girl shows. One Finger for The Ballad of Jack and Rose.

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Earl Dittman of Wireless Radio

Sin City is "Four Stars! Absolutely brilliant filmmaking!"

Fever Pitch is "thebest romantic comedy since 50 First Dates!"

Beauty Shop is "Positively hilarious! Queen Latifah is sensational! She gives a wildly hysterical and incredibly charming performance!"

Guess Who is "Absolute comic perfection! An extraordinarily funny, laugh-a-minute, side-splitting comedy!"

Filthy's Reading
Peter Gollenbock - Wild, High and Tight, the Life and Death of Billy Martin

Listening to
The Hives - Veni Vidi Vicious


Major League Baseball