A review of “Jack and Diane”

Self-aware, hollow, and buoyed by an endearing musical score, Bradley Rust Gray‘s Jack and Diane debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival to much anticipation but left many scratching their heads.

Diane (Juno Temple), a British teenager, arrives in New York and immediately loses her cell phone. After unsuccessfully begging several strangers to use their phones to call her aunt, she wanders into a small clothing boutique, where she meets swaggering skater-girl Jack (Riley Keogh). Diane’s nose starts bleeding, and Jack takes her into the back room, where she gives Diane a tissue. The two are immediately attracted to other, so instead of calling her aunt, Diane goes to a club with Jack. There, the two share their first kiss.

But first, Diane perplexingly turns into a werewolf in the club bathroom. That’s right, a werewolf. And before the two smooch she becomes human again. Several times during the course of the film Diane imagines herself to be a monster, at one point devouring Jack’s heart raw. When the two main characters encounter turmoil, the narrative is interrupted with grisly shots of sinew and bodily fluids getting pulled apart — presumably to illustrate the angst of teenage love. The horror elements, while visually stunning, do not really mesh with the narrative, and the film could have either done without them or incorporated them in a less nonsensical manner.

The two do share some sweet moments, and the dialogue is often quirky and humorous. Jack’s obnoxious sniping with Diane’s aunt is especially funny, as is the shaving mishap scene where Diane’s aunt walks in on Diane’s failed attempts to groom her lady parts.

One thing the filmmaker does successfully establish is mood, from the disturbingly raw home video where Diane’s sister is assaulted to the dreamy final scene where Diane listens to the cassette tape that Jack sends her after the two are separated. But while the expert camera work and wonderful score provides the perfect setting for love to blossom, the bond between Jack and Diane never seems to fully congeal — the spark just doesn’t seem to be there, which is disappointing, since the love story is supposed to be what anchors the film.

The whole should be more than a sum of its parts, and while Jack and Diane has beautifully crafted parts, they never seem to come together in a cohesive package. Still, I cannot seem to get that ’80s song on Jack’s cassette tape out of my head. If any of you know what it is, can you tell me? I’d like to download it and, like Jack, play it on repeat all day.

Jack & Diane will be in theaters November 2.