Jack & Diane, sadly unrelated to John Mellencamp’s 1982 hit, is a regrettable piece of filmmaking. It’s regrettable that writer/director Bradley Rust Gray wasted four years trying to get the film made. It’s regrettable that young actresses Juno Temple and Riley Keough are wasted in thankless roles. And it’s regrettable for anyone who has to sit through what is arguably the worst film released in theaters this year.
The story centers around teenagers Diane (Temple) and Jack (Keough) who meet and share a rather tepid and unremarkable romance over the course of a summer. Gray intersperses the emotional and sexual aspects of their relationship with horror imagery meant to underlie the animalistic nature of their attraction (which we see little evidence of on-screen).
Gray’s metaphor is ill-defined and sophomoric at best. The only positive to the various scenes involving monsters, growing hair, and various pulsating internal organs is a welcome relief from the relative boredom of the rest of the movie.
And boredom is the right word as both our two leads as the entire supporting cast seems to be sleepwalking through the whole enterprise knowing their time is far more valuable than putting forth any kind of genuine effort that this script simply doesn’t deserve. Everyone, especially our two young leading ladies, seem to be in some kind of daze. It’s almost as the entire cast and crew, both in front and behind the camera, was continuously popping ambien throughout filming.
Other than the “insight” that teenagers are selfish, make bad decisions, and masturbate a lot, Jack & Diane has very little to actually say other than to reveal Gray’s sexual fetish for werewolves, lycanthropy, and monsters. The film introduces several threads, including subplots about Diane’s twin sister involving a bizarre phone sex sequence and Internet discovery, which aren’t properly introduced, explored, or resolved (much like the horror sequences the director is so proud of). Even at its best, which is rarely, the movie comes off as half-assed (and a horrifically ill-conceived waste of time at its worst).
Jack & Diane is a pointless tale that offers no insight to its awkward and pointless characters who don’t know what they want and don’t give the audience a reason to care if they ever find out. The movie may have delusions of grandeur about being cool and edgy, but in reality is Gray’s tale of lesbian teen angst (which certainly isn’t all that angsty) comes off as the work of a first year art student who struggles with and is rightfully ashamed to share with an audience.
To paraphrase Mr. Mellencamp, I could say the story of Jack and Diane goes on long after the film’s thrill is gone, but that would be implying there was anything remotely thrilling about the poorly thought out and equally shamefully produced film.